Friday, May 27, 2022


A turning point in the path to peace in Assam

Several parts of the North East India, which comprises States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, have been in the throes of insurgency for quite some time. Militant activities of various underground groups and ethnic divisions have kept the conditions disturbed in several areas of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura and in some areas of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Presence of a long and porous border and a highly inhospitable terrain facilitated the movement of militant groups and flow of illegal arms into the region, besides large-scale influx of illegal migrants into the country. Inadequate economic development and employment opportunities in the region too have contributed to induction of neo-literate youth into militancy.

For the record- there have been some 60 terrorist, extremist or insurgent Groups in Assam.  However, the biggest chunk of 37 terrorist and/or insurgent groups was Inactive since long. Further 14 groups or conglomerates were engaged in Peace Talks or ceasefire agreements with the government or security forces. Six terrorist/insurgent groups were active till recent years, while 3 terrorist/extremist groups were proscribed. In short, life in Assam was far away from peace.

Now comes the good and heartening news. Assam is going to be totally free from terrorism very soon. Almost 250 members of the United Gorkha People’s Organisation (UGPO) and Tiwa Liberation Army (TLA), formally laid down arms in a ceremony in Guwahati. Out of them, 169 were UGPO cadres and 77 were TLA cadres.  Both were ethnicity-based extremist organisations. With this only two active insurgent groups now remain in the state, namely the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO).

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that “Apart from ULFA-I and KLO, all groups are either in talks with the government or have come overground”.

Bodo Peace Accord was signed with the Centre two years ago. According to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma “that was a turning point in the path to peace in Assam. It is for all to see how peace has returned to the Bodo Territorial Region and momentum of development has started there”.

What is even more heartening is that the Assam Chief Minister has announced that the two Bru-Reang groups in the Barak Valley will surrender by next month. He said that he is optimistic that both ULFA-I and KLO would join talks in the near future. In a tweet Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said “Inspired by PM and Hon HM Sri @AmitShah, in the last two years we’ve managed to have all major militant groups surrender arms, and join the mainstream. I urge ULFA (I) & KLO, two remaining major extremist groups, to come forward & sit in peace talks with GoI.”

UGPO came into existence in 2007. This outfit claims to represent interests of the Gorkha community in Assam. The TLA is of more recent origin and it claims to fight for the Tiwa ethnic group.

The rehabilitation is an important part of surrender of former terrorist/insurgents. The Government of Assam had an elaborate scheme for Surrender-Cum-Rehabilitation of Militants in the North-East. In the recent event also, the Chief Minister distributed a financial grant of Rs 1.5 lakh each to the 662 former members of extremist groups Rabha National Liberation Front, United People’s Revolutionary Front, National Liberation Front of Bengali, National Santhal Liberation Army and Adivasi Dragon Fighters. The Chief Minister said that the government is committed to rehabilitate all militants who surrendered before May 10.

These are not efforts in isolation. The strategy adopted by the Government to improve the situation in the North East includes accelerated infrastructure development, stress on employment, good governance and decentralization, building friendly relations with neighbouring countries, willingness to meet and discuss legitimate grievances of the people and the resolve not to tolerate violence.
In pursuance of this strategy, the Central Government has taken necessary measures to counter militancy in NE States which, apart from initiation of peace-dialogue with various outfits, includes deployment of Central Police Forces, raising of India Reserve Battalion (initial cost of raising is met by the Central Government), modernization of State Police Forces, implementation of 100% Centrally funded surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy with a view to weaning away misguided youth who have strayed into the fold of militancy and rehabilitating them in the mainstream.

In July 2021, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in the assembly that a total of 3,439 militants have surrendered in Assam since 2016.

According to his statement, till 6th July 2021, 1,306 arms, 20,722 different ammunitions, 89 bombs, 599 grenades and 121.72 kg of explosives have been seized. These apart, 748 arms and 19,299 ammunition were deposited by insurgents who surrendered before the authorities.

The CM said “the state government has taken special measures to rehabilitate the militants who gave up arms. Under the Centre’s Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation Scheme of Northeast Militants, financial assistance of Rs 6,000 each is given every month, along with a fixed deposit of Rs 4 lakh. It is also imparting skill development training to 1,800 surrendered militants and out of them, 1,192 have been provided Rs 1 lakh to start some livelihood project. Similar training programmes are also being planned for such NDFB militants in districts outside the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR)”.

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