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  Opinion   Edit  31 Dec 2023  AA Edit | Ulfa pact must be broader for lasting peace in Assam

AA Edit | Ulfa pact must be broader for lasting peace in Assam

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jan 1, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Jan 1, 2024, 12:05 am IST

All the stakeholders in the deal have expressed the hope it will lead to a new dawn for the people of Assam.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma with a member of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) during signing of a peace accord between ULFA and the central and Assam governments, in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 29, 2023. (PTI Photo/Arun Sharma)
 Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma with a member of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) during signing of a peace accord between ULFA and the central and Assam governments, in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 29, 2023. (PTI Photo/Arun Sharma)

The tripartite agreement signed by the Union government, the Assam government and the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) last week possibly marks the end of an armed and bloody struggle which has been going on for more than four decades in Assam. As per the deal, Ulfa, by far the most popular insurgent group in the entire north east, will abjure violence, surrender arms, disband the organisation, vacate their camps and join the democratic process. On its part, the Union and the state governments will implement development works worth Rs 1.5 lakh crores and a special package of Rs 5,000 crores for the state. The accord also provides for applying the existing principle in future delimitation exercises to ensure that the interests of the indigenous people of the state are protected.

The Assam agitation had its genesis in the influx of refugees from Bangladesh in the seventies which a section of the people of Assam feared will subsume the culture, the language and the identity of the Assamese people. Like most insurgencies, the threat or perceived threat to the indigenous community was quick to alert people who wanted to mount a resistance to such efforts. When it was formed in 1979, Ulfa had no less a target than a sovereign state in Assam for the indigenous people. Ulfa was a quite a success in the eighties and early nineties when it was a popular insurgent forum and ran a government of its own in its strongholds. 

The Ulfa’s militant ways, which allegedly involved murders, extortion and abductions, was met with a fierce response from the governments; it is estimated that about 10,000 people have been killed in the insurgency period, with about 500 security personnel going down fighting their fellow citizens. The pressure from the government and the realisation that violent ways will not lead to peaceful solutions to issues in a democracy have a major faction of the militants group, led by Arabinda Rajkhowa, expressing its desire to negotiate with the government on the ways to settling their legitimate demands. The new peace deal is the product of nearly 12 years of negotiations. 

All the stakeholders in the deal have expressed the hope it will lead to a new dawn for the people of Assam.  Home minister Amit Shah said the day when the deal was signed was a “very big day for the people of Assam” and pointed that about 10,000 people from both sides, who were citizens of this country, had been killed during the insurgency. A big development package will be given to Assam as part of the accord and that “every clause of the pact will be fully implemented”, the Union home minister said. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was jubilant about it and said the accord will give political security and constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people of Assam by way of delimitation and land rights. Most significantly, an Ulfa representative said the accord will “bring lasting peace in Assam”. He also apologised for “any wrongdoing” from our side”.

There are still imponderables that can waylay the peace process. A powerful Ulfa faction, led by Paresh Baruah, has rejected the very idea of talks; it is important its members also come on board. The government’s seriousness about the implementation of the accord may not be shared by the local-level players who could undermine it. An honest approach to the accord and a careful follow-up of its implementation may help the stakeholders earn the trust of the people. Once that’s done, then return to peace will be an easy path.

Tags: chief minister himanta biswa sarma, ulfa, aa edit