GUWAHATI, Oct 21 - Facing threat from jehadi elements, the Assam government is planning to set up an Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) on the lines of such forces formed by some other states of the country to deal with terrorist groups that have inter-state and international connections. The process of setting up the ATS has already started and training of the police personnel to be deployed in the squad is going on.
Highly placed police sources told The Assam Tribune that there is need for a dedicated force to deal with jehadi groups and some states of the country, including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, have already formed ATS to deal with terrorism.
Though jehadi groups are yet to create any major trouble in Assam, the threat perception cannot be overlooked as over the years, such groups tried to establish strong roots in the State from time to time. In most cases, the existence of such outfits in the State came to light only after arrests of members of these outfits. Sources pointed out that in the late 1990s, the Harkat-ul Mujahideen tried to establish strong roots in the State and even sent some local youths to Pakistan for training. The fact came to light after the arrest of four operatives of the outfit in the city, which led to the arrest of around 40 people, including Pakistan-trained members of the outfit.
Similarly, terrorist groups like the HUJI, Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh and Hizbul Mujahideen tried to establish their roots in the State. As such outfits have links in other states and even countries, there is need for a special force to deal with such outfits. That is why a decision was taken to set up the ATS in Assam.
As per the proposal, the ATS will operate under the Special Branch of the Assam Police and it will be headed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the Special Branch. The police personnel to be deployed in the ATS are now being trained with the Central government agencies like the Intelligence Bureau (IB) assisting in the training programme.
Sources said the ATS would exclusively deal with terrorism and remain in touch with their counterparts in other states as well as the Central agencies so that movement of terrorist group operatives could be closely monitored. The ATS will also be allowed to register cases relating to terrorism. At present, the Special Operation Unit (SOU) of the Assam Police, which is working under the Special Branch, is allowed to register cases, but with the formation of the ATS, the counter-terrorism mechanism in the State will get a major boost.
Sources also admitted that most of the char areas in the State can be considered vulnerable as those are mostly out of the security radar and though surveys are carried out in these areas from time to time, it has to be a continuous process. Meanwhile, efforts are on to improve the intelligence gathering mechanism in the areas considered vulnerable to activities of antisocial elements.