Fri 21 Oct 2005
Filed under: News,On The Border
Three weeks after the Indian Army called off its operations in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, in the easternmost part of Assam bordering Arunachal Pradesh, forces are still present in the area as officials aim to prevent possible attempts by rebel outfits to regroup.
Army sources said a battalion was still posted in Laika forest village, as the presence of troops was necessary to ensure the area remained free from militants.
“Operation Balwan has been suspended temporarily but the troops are keeping a close watch on the possible movement of the militants,” the sources said.
Following last month’s offensive, one group of the United Liberation Front Asom (ULFA) taking refuge in Dibru-Saikhowa escaped to Burma through Nagaland. Another group is still hiding in the jungles of upper Assam. Army officials are reportedly worried the group will attempt to increase its numbers in upper Assam.
A month-long operation against the ULFA in September resulted in the destruction of two of the group’s major camps and the deaths of three members including one militant leader. Huge quantities of arms, ammunition and cash were also recovered.
But there have been no reports major encounters between the army and the ULFA since the formal suspension of operations in the area. Villagers near the forest are reportedly growing accustomed to the military presence.
“Though the army is still having a strong presence, we have not heard any guns firing in the last couple of weeks,” a villager of Laika said.
The September offensive caused medicinal and food shortages in several of the villages in the area as the army laid siege to the group. The incident caused concern that a humanitarian disaster was imminent. Operations were suspended on September 17.