A total of 419 leaders and cadres of the Karbi Longri N.C. Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF) formally handed over 158 weapons to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday at an arms decommissioning ceremony in Diphu of central Assam’s Karbi Anglong hill district.

The KLNLF cadres in battle fatigues, including 22 women, were led by the outfit’s chairman Habe Tokbi and general secretary Thong Teron.

Each KLNLF member was welcomed to the mainstream with a red rose, a gamocha (traditional Assamese shawl) and a poho (traditional Karbi muffler).

KLNLF publicity secretary Rajek Dera, however, announced at the ceremony that even though they had laid down arms, they had not decommissioned their cause of self-rule for the Karbi Longri and North Cachar Hills and would continue the fight across the negotiation table. The KLNLF leaders also submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister.

The weapons deposited included 21 AK-47 rifles, 22 AK-56 rifles, six M-16, one Universal Machine Gun, One Light Machine Gun, one rocket propelled grenade launcher, and four M-21 pistols.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, while welcoming the KLNLF move, announced a Rs. 50-crore special package for the hill district. He also appealed to the elusive self-styled commander-in-chief of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) Paresh Barua and Ranjan Daimary of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (anti-talk faction) to free themselves from the influence of foreign forces, give up violence and come forward for negotiations like the KLNLF and other insurgent outfits.

Mr. Gogoi said the huge turnout of people for the ceremony reflected their desire for permanent peace and progress.

General Officer Commanding 4 Corps of the Army Lt. Gen. Gyan Bhushan described it as a historic day for India, Assam and Karbi Anglong.

Addressing KLNLF leaders and cadres as brothers and sisters, the GOC complimented them for giving up the path of violence and opting for negotiations.

The Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Naveen Verma, hoped that following the return of the KLNLF to the mainstream, all obstacles in the path of development of the hill district would be removed.

Leaders of the militant United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), functionaries of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, leaders of different Karbi bodies were present at the ceremony held at the Karbi Anglong Sports Association (KASA) stadium.

The KLNLF was formed by breakaway leaders and cadres of the UPDS, which is currently holding peace talks with the government.