ULFA, Centre & Assam sign accord
NEW DELHI —The ULFA’s pro-talks faction on Friday signed a peace accord with the central and the Assam governments, agreeing to shun violence, surrender all arms, disband the organisation and join the democratic process.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was present along with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at the signing of the accord in the national capital, called it a golden day for the people of Assam.
“Assam has suffered for long due to the violence of the ULFA and 10,000 people lost their lives in this violence since 1979,” he said.
Shah said the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) — the oldest insurgent group of Assam — agreed to abjure violence, surrender arms, disband the organisation, vacate their camps and join the democratic process.
A big development package will be given to Assam as part of the accord. Every clause of the pact will be fully implemented, he said.
“The agreement is a significant milestone to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a peaceful, prosperous and insurgency-free Northeast and bringing everlasting peace, prosperity and all-round development of Assam,” he said and added that the accord will be implemented in a time-bound manner.
Shah said the home ministry, under the prime minister’s guidance, worked with the vision of a Northeast that is free from extremism, violence and conflict.
In the last five years, nine peace- and border-related agreements have been signed with several insurgent groups and among different states in the Northeast, establishing peace in large parts of the region, he said.
More than 9,000 cadres have surrendered and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been lifted from 85 per cent area of Assam, he said.
Shah said that after the formation of Modi government in 2014, violent incidents in Assam decreased by 87 per cent, deaths by 90 per cent and kidnappings by 84 per cent.
So far, 7,500 cadres have surrendered in Assam alone, which will have additional 750 after the accord’s signing. Thus, the surrender of a total 8,200 cadres in Assam alone will be completed and it will be the beginning of a new era of peace, he said.
The home minister said the Modi government signed an agreement with the Tripura-based insurgent group NLFT in 2019, groups belonging to the Bru and the Bodo communities in 2020, a group of the Karbi tribals of Assam in 2021 and with an Adivasi group in 2022.
The Assam-Meghalaya and the Assam-Arunachal border agreements and the agreement with the Manipur-based insurgent group UNLF were signed in 2023, he added.
With this agreement with the ULFA, a new era of peace is going to begin for the entire Northeast, and especially Assam, Shah said.
A time-bound programme will be made by the home ministry to fulfil the ULFA’s demands and a committee will be formed for its monitoring, the home minister added.
He said in all the agreements signed after 2019, the Modi government is ahead of time and efforts have been made to fulfil all the conditions. This would not have been possible without Prime Minister Modi’s broader vision of an insurgency-free Northeast.
Chief Minister Sarma termed the accord “historic” and said it fructified due to the guidance and leadership of Modi and Shah.
Sarma said among the 10,000 people killed in ULFA violence, around 400 to 500 were security personnel while the rest were native people of Assam.
According to the accord, about Rs 1.5 lakh crore will be invested in Assam in various development projects. Besides, in future delimitation exercises, the existing principle will be applied in Assam so that the interests of the indigenous people of the state are protected, he said.
“The accord will give political security and constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people of Assam by way of delimitation, land rights,” Sarma said, adding 726 more cadres will join the mainstream now.
ULFA leader Sashadhar Choudhary, while thanking Modi, Shah and Sarma, expressed hope that the pact will bring durable peace and stability in Assam.
Officials said a host of long-standing political, economic and social issues concerning Assam, besides provisions for cultural safeguards and land rights to the indigenous people, have been incorporated in the accord.
Besides the 16-member delegation led by ULFA ‘Chairman’ Arabinda Rajkhowa, representatives from 13 civil society organisations were also present on the occasion. The accord came after 12 years of unconditional negotiations between the Rajkhowa-led ULFA faction and the government, the officials said.
The peace pact is expected to end the decades-old insurgency in Assam.
However, the ULFA’s hardline faction headed by Paresh Baruah is not a part of the agreement. Baruah is believed to be residing at a place along the China-Myanmar border.
Sarma said Baruah is likely to join the peace process now and that state government representatives are in touch with him.
The ULFA was formed in 1979 with the demand for a “sovereign Assam”. Since then, it has been involved in subversive activities that led to the central government declaring it a banned outfit in 1990.
The Rajkhowa-led faction joined peace talks with the government on September 3, 2011, after an agreement for Suspension of Operations was signed between the ULFA and the central and the state governments.