July 13, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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PEACE PACT WITH ULFA: HISTORICAL CONTEXT AND IMPLICATIONS

TAG: GS 3: INTERNAL SECURITY

THE CONTEXT: The pro-talks faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) signed a tripartite peace deal with the Indian government and the Assam government in December 2023.

EXPLANATION:

  • This memorandum of settlement entails various provisions, including renouncing violence, disarming, disbanding armed activities, vacating occupied camps, and participating in democratic processes.
  • The agreement emphasizes Assam’s development with an investment of ₹1.5 lakh crore.
  • It also addresses political demands, boundary disputes, and the representation of indigenous communities in the Assam Assembly.

Formation of ULFA and Its Objectives

  • The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) emerged as a consequence of the Assam Agitation that started in 1979, culminating in the Assam Accord of August 1985.
  • The fear of indigenous communities in Assam being displaced by “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh sparked this movement.
  • While social organizations and students protested, a faction of radicals including Arabinda Rajkhowa, Anup Chetia, and Paresh Baruah formed the ULFA on April 7, 1979.
  • The group aimed to establish a sovereign Assam and engaged in an armed struggle, undergoing training in countries like Myanmar, China, and Pakistan.

The Journey of Conflict and Insurgency

  • ULFA’s militant activities included abductions and executions, prompting a government response with Operation Bajrang in 1990, leading to the group’s ban. Assam was declared a disturbed area under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
  • Counter-insurgency operations led to the arrest of many ULFA members in the early 1990s.
  • Some ULFA members surrendered in 1992, forming the Surrendered ULFA (SULFA), but allegations surfaced of their involvement in “secret killings.”
  • Meanwhile, ULFA hardliners collaborated with external terror groups and sought refuge in Bangladesh and Bhutan, facing military action in 2003 and 2009, respectively.

Ups and Downs in Peace Initiatives

  • The ULFA vacillated between peace initiatives and renewed violence. It formed a People’s Consultative Group in 2005, signaling a willingness for peace, but later reverted to insurgent activities.
  • In 2009, the Rajkhowa-led faction signed a ceasefire with the Indian government, while the anti-talks faction, led by Paresh Baruah, remained opposed to negotiations, resulting in a split within ULFA.
  • The anti-talks group renamed itself ULFA (Independent) in 2013.

Challenges Ahead

  • Despite the signing of the accord, challenges remain due to the presence of the anti-talks faction led by Paresh Baruah, operating from hideouts in Myanmar’s Sagaing Division.
  • Baruah insists on discussing Assam’s sovereignty, which the government rejects, emphasizing Assam’s commitment to India.
  • The government aims to convince Baruah for negotiations while acknowledging that peace remains incomplete without his group’s participation.

Conclusion

  • The peace pact with the ULFA’s pro-talks faction marks a significant step towards resolving Assam’s prolonged insurgency.
  • However, challenges persist with the presence of the anti-talks faction led by Paresh Baruah.
  • The success of the agreement hinges on the government’s commitment to implementation and its ability to engage with the remaining insurgent faction to achieve lasting peace in Assam.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/understanding-the-peace-pact-with-ulfa-explained/article67703481.ece/amp/

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