Centre, Assam sign peace pact with ULFA faction

Amit Shah says the tripartite settlement is significant for Assam’s peace and the government had achieved success in eliminating all the violent groups in the State; CM Himanta Biswa Sarma says doors are open for the Paresh Baruah faction to join the talks

December 29, 2023 05:32 pm | Updated 10:04 pm IST - New Delhi

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma with leaders of the Arabinda Rajkhowa-led pro-talks faction of ULFA after the signing of a a peace accord with the central and Assam governments in New Delhi on December 29, 2023. Photo: YouTube/@AmitShah

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma with leaders of the Arabinda Rajkhowa-led pro-talks faction of ULFA after the signing of a a peace accord with the central and Assam governments in New Delhi on December 29, 2023. Photo: YouTube/@AmitShah

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Assam government and the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) signed a memorandum of settlement on Friday.

Home Minister Amit Shah said the “tripartite settlement is significant for Assam’s peace” and the government had achieved success in eliminating all the violent groups in the State.

“It is a golden day for Assam’s future. Assam and the northeast have endured violence for decades. ULFA cadres have agreed to surrender arms and ammunition, vacate their camps and have decided to join the mainstream and engage in the peaceful democratic process established by law and maintain the integrity of the country. Since 1979 all those who were killed were country’s citizens,” Mr. Shah said, adding that the total number of such cadres stood at 700.

He said a time-bound programme would be made by the MHA to fulfill the demands of the ULFA and a committee would also be formed for its monitoring.

Many rounds of talks

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said that over the years, several rounds of negotiations were held with the ULFA which had culminated in the peace agreement.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that since 1979, around 10,000 people lost their lives in the Assam agitation and “many families till today have no answers why their sons and husbands were killed and those who killed were also not aware why they were killing people.”

“The Home Ministry took a decisive step to negotiate with the ULFA and bring closure. This accord will fulfill the aspirations of people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach has brought peace to Assam,” Mr. Sarma said.

He said only 15% area in Assam remained under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

Mr. Sarma said doors were open for the Paresh Baruah faction to join the talks. “One of the conditions put by Paresh Baruah was the culmination of the present accord; he will initiate peace. Now that we have reached this far, I believe that we will be able to complete the rest of the journey. Talks will continue,” Mr. Sarma said.

Key points

He said the key points of the peace accord were that 97 out of 126 Assembly seats in Assam would be reserved for indigenous people and the future delimitation exercise would follow this principle. “This will address the question of political insecurity of the people of Assam,” the Chief Minister said.

He said ₹1.5 lakh crore investment had been pledged in the peace accord and constitutional safeguards would be ensured by protecting land rights and putting restrictions on migration from one constituency to another.

A 16-member delegation of the ULFA, headed by Arabinda Rajkhowa, was present at the signing of the peace pact at North Block on Friday. The group joined the peace talks in 2011 when it signed the suspension of operation (SoO) with the MHA and the Assam government.

The other faction led by Paresh Baruah, known as ULFA-I, has not joined the peace process. Baruah is said to be in China and has support of 100 cadres who mainly operate from the Myanmar border.

The ULFA was born during the anti-foreigners movement of 1979 demanding a sovereign State for the Assamese people after several Bengali speaking people crossed over to India post 1971 coinciding with the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Sasadhar Chowdhury of the ULFA said at the meeting, “this will bring lasting peace and development in Assam.”

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