'Military columns deployed in Assam should be back in barracks in a day or two'
Kolkata, Dec 16: Army Commander Lt Gen Anil Chauhan on Monday expressed hope that military columns deployed in Assam, the epicentre of protests over the citizenship law, would return to barracks in a day or two as the situation in the state was "fast improving".
He said that it was the prerogative of the state administration to seek assistance of the Army to restore law and order, after having failed to handle a situation.
"Over the past three days, Army columns were deployed not just in Assam but also in Tripura. Some were kept on standby in Meghalaya, but were not deployed.
"Up until day before yesterday (Saturday), there were about 24 columns in upper Assam and 12 in lower Assam. On ground, however, just eight columns carried out flag marches. The numbers then dropped to four or five," General Officer Commanding in Chief (GoC in-C) Lt Gen Anil Chauhan said at Fort William, the headquarters of Eastern Command.
"This indicates how fast the situation is improving... Hopefully in a day or two we should be back in the barracks and the civic administration back on its feet," he said. The GoC in-C was speaking to the media after a wreath-laying ceremony at Vijay Smarak here to commemorate India's victory over Pakistan in 1971 war.
Asked if there was any requisition for help from the government of West Bengal, which has also witnessed violent agitation over the amended Act in the past four days, he said, "You are aware that when the Army comes out in aid of civil authorities, it is on the behest of the civil administration." The state machinery should be taking a call whether it would seek Army assistance, Chauhan noted.
"When the civil administration feels it is not able to handle a situation and needs Army's help, we reach out... In this particular case, states (Assam, Tripura) where columns have been deployed after the state exhausted its resources. They needed our help to restore law and order," he explained.
Assam witnessed one of the worst protests in its history over the past week, with agitators setting fire to rail stations, post offices, banks, bus terminus, shops, and dozens of vehicles. Agitators engaged in pitched battle in almost every major city, forcing the administration to impose curfew. At least four people were killed in firing by security forces, while one oil tanker driver was charred to death after his vehicle was set on fire.