Centre bids to end Assam insurgency through peace deal with banned group ULFA

The Centre is exploring the possibility of a peace agreement with the banned outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls in Assam.

Recently deported ULFA leader Anup Chetia, who had been in Bangladesh for the last 17 years, could play a key role in peace talks that the government wants to initiate.

Top ULFA leaders will meet Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi on Tuesday to find a way forward for a possible peace agreement.

Rajiv Mehrishi
Anup Chetia

Top leaders of banned organisation Ulfa, possibly including deported leader Anup Chetia (right), will meet Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi in a bid to end Assam's four-decade long insurgency

Mehrishi will review various aspects of Ulfa’s demands with a delegation of the insurgent group led by ‘chairman’ Arabinda Rajkhowa. 

The home secretary will review the progress of the parleys that have been going on between the Central government’s interlocutor PC Halder and the pro-negotiation faction of the ULFA, led by Rajkhowa, a home ministry official said.

The ULFA delegation is also likely to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh during their visit to the Capital.

There is a strong possibility of the Narendra Modi government signing a peace accord with the pro-talk faction of the ULFA ahead of next year’s Assam Assembly election, in order to bring an end to the nearly four decades of insurgency in the Northeastern state.

Officials said a peace accord may come through by the end of December. 

Officials say Chetia’s deportation from Bangladesh has also sent a positive signal to the Ulfa leadership and that has set the ball rolling for the early signing of a peace accord.

Election to the 126-member Assam Assembly is due in April-May next year. 

The BJP may try to take credit if an accord is signed before the elections in its bid to dislodge the Congress, which has been ruling the state for three consecutive terms. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who oversaw the peace accord signed with Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM in August, is believed to be keen for an early conclusion of the peace agreement with ULFA.

If a peace accord is signed, some of the ULFA leaders are expected to contest the Assembly elections.

A former Ulfa leader, Hira Sarania, is now an MP (Independent) in the Lok Sabha after he successfully contested the 2014 parliamentary elections. 

The Rajkhowa-led ULFA faction had begun unconditional talks with the Central government in 2011, despite strong opposition from the hardline wing led by Paresh Baruah, who is believed to be in Myanmar.

Among other issues, ULFA’s charter of demands include recognition of six communities in Assam —Moran, Muttock, Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Sootea and Tea Tribes — as Scheduled Tribes (ST).

The home ministry has supported the proposal of inclusion of the six communities in the ST list and is in talks with the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes and the tribal affairs ministry to draft and finalise a Bill which may be tabled in Parliament in its upcoming winter session. 

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