Former rebels in Assam find new start among goats

Scheme makes them self-reliant and helps Assam government check encroachment

Updated - October 21, 2019 01:44 pm IST

Published - October 21, 2019 04:33 am IST - GUWAHATI

Another chance: The goat farm at Chamuapara to be managed by former militants from Monday. Photo: Special arrangement

Another chance: The goat farm at Chamuapara to be managed by former militants from Monday. Photo: Special arrangement

Former extremists in Assam are farming reform in a revenue-sharing arrangement that is envisaged to make them self-reliant and help the State government check encroachment of its unused land.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has been implementing a rehabilitation scheme for surrendered extremists in the northeast since 1998. The package included a one-time grant, monthly stipends and incentives for depositing weapons.

Seldom worked

But the scheme seldom had the desired result with the beneficiaries using up their money and resorting to forming syndicates to live off ‘surcharge’ on almost everything from consumables to construction material.

“Schemes earlier could not be sustained because they benefited individuals and did not quite promote the work culture among members of our organisation and of other groups,” Golap Baruah said.

Mr. Baruah, better known by his alias Anup Chetia, is the general secretary of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) that has been pursuing talks unlike the ULFA-Independent faction led by its military chief Paresh Baruah.

Foreseeing a future in farming, leaders of the ULFA and the State officials began discussing the cooperative approach in 2016. “The planning is becoming a reality with the opening of a goat farm on Monday,” he said.

Goat farm

The goat farm in Chamuapara, about 80 km northeast of Guwahati, was set up for ₹89 lakh in the Veterinary Department’s complex in the area. It would be managed by 28 ex-militants, who are among 1,800 trained in various skills under the Swabalamban (self-reliant) Project designed by the Assam Police’s Special Branch.

About 60 hectares of unused land of the Chamuapara veterinary unit has also been entrusted with 50 former militants for cultivating paddy and other crops.

Kumar Sanjay Krishna, Additional Chief Secretary in charge of Home, said the government had been focusing on farm activities that require low investment but high yield returns. “A pig farm at Dairong in Goalpara district is on the cards under a similar scheme,” he said.

Mr. Baruah said he had asked the government to let the surrendered militants — a potent workforce used to a tough life during their underground days — use its seed farms, particularly in western Assam where many have been encroached upon.

“If the encroachers are evicted, the land remains with the government. We will put in the hard work for a farm revolution,” he said.

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