GUWAHATI, Sept 5 - The Assam Government is likely to consider withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) provided the Centre agrees to deploy additional central paramilitary forces or allow the State to raise additional India Reserve Battalions to fill up the void to be created following the withdrawal of the Army from counter-insurgency operations.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that though the Centre did not extend the term of the AFSPA when it expired on August 31, the State Government decided to extend it for a period of six months with effect from September 1 as there was apprehension that the militant groups of the North East, under the influence of Chinese agencies, would try to step up the level of violence. Moreover, the areas bordering Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are still sensitive because of movement of ultras in the neighbouring states.
Sources, however, said that the Army is not operating in the districts where there is no movement of militants. The Unified Command also decided that the Army would not operate in the districts, which are considered peaceful and there was no report of any movement of ultras. At present, the Army personnel are not operating in several peaceful districts including Kamrup (Metro), Jorhat and Nagaon. But with the entire State being declared as disturbed area under the AFSPA, the Army can be called to operate in all the districts whenever required.
Official sources admitted that immediate withdrawal of the Army would create problems for the State. But the problem can be overcome if the Centre agrees to provide extra forces to fill up the void after the withdrawal of the Army from counter insurgency duties. Moreover, the State Government has sent a proposal to the Centre seeking permission to raise five additional India Reserve Battalions. Raising of the battalions will also remove the problem of shortage of forces and in that case also, the State Government can consider withdrawal of the AFSPA.
The funds required for raising India Reserve Battalions are provided by the Government of India and if the Centre accepts the State�s proposal, such forces will be assets for the State in the days to come and reduce the dependence on central forces. Moreover, local youths would get jobs in the India Reserve Battalions and with Assam facing grave unemployment problem, such a move will be beneficial for the State. Sources also said that the cost of raising an India Reserve Battalion is one third of the money required for raising a battalion of a Central paramilitary force.
Meanwhile, on the threat issued by the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) to NEEPCO and NHPC, police sources said that a meeting will be held soon with the senior officials of the organizations to discuss the security issues and all precautionary measures will be taken.