16 April, 2007 (FIDSNS)
Engaged in anti-ULFA operations in insurgency-hit Assam, the Indian army joined the state’s traditional Rongali Bihu celebrations.
To project the Army’s humane face, “An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove” slogan has been adopted by the chief of army staff General J J Singh during the ongoing Rongali Bihu festival.
A defence spokesman at the army’s Four Corps headquarter at Tezpur, heading the operation against the banned ULFA, said that the army has sensitised its officers and jawans towards the emotions of the Assamese people during the auspicious Bihu celebration.
The Army’s particiaption in the fistivities “focuses on the humanitarian face of the army and their fair play reinforces the faith of the common people in the security force”, he said.
The spokesman said that in the two days preceding Bihu, two hardcore ultras of the strike force 28 battalion were apprehended without resorting to firing.
On 13 April, 2007, PTI had reported that the army had achieved a major success in its operations against the ULFA in Assam by breaking the backbone of the banned group’s strike force, the “28 battalion”.
“As many as 20 top ULFA ultras, including 16 from the 28 battalion, have been killed in the past fortnight. This is a severe blow which has broken their backbone,” Maj Gen N C Marwah, general officer commanding of the 2 Mountain Brigade that is heading counter-insurgency operations in upper Assam.
The army, after intensifying its operations in upper Assam, particularly after the massacre of Hindi-speaking people by the ULFA in January, scored several successes including the recent gunning down of eight rebels in Manabhum reserve forest of neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, he said.
After the oeprations in Manabhum, the 28 battalion was in disarray as most cadres of its “Charlie company”, who were active in the upper Assam districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugar as well as Arunachal Pradesh, were either captured or killed.
Meanwhile, a senior army officer who recently took a media team on an aerial survey of suspected ULFA hideouts on the Manabhum-Myanmar border and in Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary, claimed the force had intercepted satellite telephone messages of the ULFA revealing their plans for major strikes after the Bihu festival.