ULFA pro-talks faction disbanded; govt adopts carrot and stick policy to get Paresh Baruah to talking table

Shah, Himanta hail peace accord; promise lasting solution to insurgency led by ULFA


The long-awaited peace deal between the Central and Assam governments and the ULFA pro-talks faction on Thursday is the first step towards bringing outlawed Paresh Baruah, the top militant of the dreaded militant outfit hiding on the China-Myanmar border, to the talking table.

Paresh, who is in secret talks with the Assam government, had set a precondition that the government reaches a settlement with ULFA pro-talks faction before he comes on board. That settlement is done now, senior security officials said, and the spotlight is back on Paresh to manoeuvrer his way through before the heat builds up on the truncated ULFA, which wreaked havoc and terror in the northeast once.

The protracted dialogue between the government and the pro-talks faction, led by Arabinda Rajkhowa and Anup Chetia among others, has been watched closely by Paresh who was getting restless about the long-drawn process even as he faced the heat of security forces, with many of his close aides expressing the desire to surrender and return home. Some like Drishti Rajkhowa got a safe passage back to Assam—a rare case when Paresh allowed a key ULFA aide to surrender.

The writing on the wall is clear. Paresh, in his 70s, realises that after running one of the longest-running insurgencies in the Northeast, aided and abetted by the Pakistan ISI at one point and enjoying China’s covert support, has lost steam and support back home. Over the years, apart from the armed militants who had escaped to the China-Myanmar border, there was no future for ULFA sympathisers and supporters in Assam. This is also one of the reasons why the ULFA had attempted to form a larger alliance of insurgent outfits in the Southeast Asian region to wreak havoc, but it failed to quite an extent.

Presently, around 150 armed cadres of the anti-talks faction of ULFA are hiding in Myanmar while Paresh himself is said to be in Yunan province of China with a handful of close aides who have been given shelter there.

A top security official said the 150-odd ULFA militants can be taken out any day if the government decides to launch a counter-insurgency operation, but efforts are afoot to bring them on board to surrender.

The success of the government in disbanding the pro-talks faction, which ceased to exist after the signing of the peace accord, is a historic move as it leaves the ULFA truncated. The camps of the pro-talks faction of ULFA will cease to exist, arms and weapons surrendered and the around 8,200 cadres will go home.

The peace deal also comes at a time when the Assam DGP G.P. Singh faces a series of threats from the anti-talks faction, demonstrating that the Himanta Biswa Sarma government is adopting a carrot-and-stick policy in dealing with the insurgent outfit.

ULFA isn’t the first. Nine insurgent groups have come on board during the tenure of the Modi government with Union Home Minister Amit Shah pointing out that border dispute settlements with Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya and nine peace deals have been signed during BJP tenure. He said 85 percent of the Northeast is free from the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, fulfilling the aspirations of the people for peace and stability.

Shah said the present accord will usher in peace and turn a new leaf for the people of Assam whose sacrifices will not be forgotten. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the bloody insurgency over the years, but now the Centre is fulfilling its commitment through the peace deal, he added.

The accord will bring developmental packages to the tune of at least Rs 1.5 lakh crore, benefits of delimitation for indigenous people, and land rights among others.

Himanta said the broad guidelines and methodology adopted for the delimitation exercise in Assam this year will be followed in future delimitations in the state. Some of these parameters are: the rate of growth of population, density of population, principles of historicity of areas and communities, geographical continuity, physical features and facilities of communication and public convenience.

The aim, Himanta said, is to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people who have long been worried about a demographic change caused by illegal migration. The next challenge is the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act and the updating of the National Register of Citizens which figures on the priority list of the Assam government.

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