ULFA signs peace accord with Centre, Assam govt

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • Insurgency in Assam
  • Reasons behind the insurgency in Assam
  • The Insurgent Groups in Assam
  • News Summary: ULFA signs peace accord with Centre, Assam govt

Why in news?

  • The pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) signed a peace accord with the Central government and the Assam government.
    • In the last five years, 9 peace and border-related agreements have been signed across Northeast.
    • In November 2023, a peace agreement was signed with the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in Manipur, a Meitei separatist group.
  • With this Memorandum of Settlement, the ULFA faction has formally agreed to shun violence and join the mainstream.

Insurgency in Assam

  • Assam has seen insurgency by various tribal militant groups, particularly from the 1980s onwards.
    • This was even after Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh were carved out of Assam.
  • The core demand of most of these groups has been greater political autonomy, primarily through separate statehood demands.

Reasons behind the insurgency in Assam

  • Ethnic minefield
    • The Assam region has a long history of tensions between the indigenous ethnic groups.
    • There are 15 recognised tribes in the autonomous districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills and 14 recognised tribes in the rest of the state.
    • Of these, the major tribes are Bodo (35% of the state’s tribal population), Mishing (17.52%), Karbi (11.1%), Rabha (7.6%), Sonowal Kachari (6.5%), Lalung (5.2%), Garo (4.2%), and Dimasa (3.2%).
    • Of these, the most sustained and violent movement for autonomy has been carried out by Bodo groups.
    • However, there have also been Karbi and Dimasa groups that waged militant operations over the decades.
  • Immigration
    • The large-scale immigration of Bengali-speaking Muslims from the neighboring country of Bangladesh has been a major source of tension in the region.
    • The Assamese people see this immigration as a threat to their identity, culture, and economic well-being.
  • Political factors
    • This region saw movements which ask for recognition of sub-regional aspirations.
    • These movements often came in direct conflict with the State Governments or even the Autonomous Councils.
      • E.g., All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU) stepped up the movement in 1987 for a separate state of Bodoland on the North Bank of the Brahmaputra.
  • Economic factors
    • The isolation of the region after partition was a big blow to the economy of the region.
    • The perception of exploitation of NE resources by the government in Delhi boosted insurgency.

The Insurgent Groups in Assam

  • United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA)
    • Formed in April 1979, ULFA was founded on the ideology of Assamese nationalism.
    • It pledged to liberate Assam and establish a Swadin Asom (Independent Assam) comprising the ethnic Assamese speaking people.
  • Bodo Movement in Assam
    • The demand for the creation of a homeland for the Assam plains tribal communities in the shape of Udyachal was a significant plank of the Bodo political movement in the 1960s.
    • The All-Bodo Students Union (ABSU) was formed in 1967 to represent the Bodo cause.
      • The movement for separate Bodoland was revived through the ABSU after the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.
      • It soon came to be backed by Bodo armed groups with the formation of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
      • This led to the emergence of an insurgency situation in the region.
    • Three accords were signed with Bodo militant groups in 1993, 2003, and 2020.
      • The first Bodo Accord was signed with the ABSU in 1993 and paved the way for the Bodoland Autonomous Council.
      • The second Accord in 2003 with the Bodo Liberation Tigers subsequently led to the formation of the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC), with jurisdiction over the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD).
      • The third Bodo Accord of 2020 was essentially a truce with four factions of the militant NDFB.
      • The third accord extended provisions already in effect through the previous accords by providing more legislative, administrative, executive and financial powers to the BTC.
      • It also gave the power to alter the area of the BTAD and notified the Bodo language as an associate official language in the state.
  • Karbi
    • There were five major militant groups of Karbi Anglong:
      • Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger,
      • People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK),
      • Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF),
      • Kuki Liberation Front (KLF), and
      • United People’s Liberation Army (UPLA).
    • The insurgency by these groups revolved around the demand for an autonomous state and had taken off in the 1980s.
    • In 2021, a settlement was arrived at with the above-mentioned five militant groups of Karbi Anglong.
      • The settlement provided for greater autonomy and special packages for the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council.
      • It also provided a special development package of Rs 1,000 crore over five years.
  • Dimasa
    • The DNLA, with which a tripartite agreement was reached recently, was the newest group to take up arms in Dima Hasao district.
    • The settlement signed with the DNLA now has similar provisions along the lines of the settlement arrived at with the five Karbi Anglong groups two years ago.

News Summary: ULFA signs peace accord with Centre, Assam govt

  • The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA)’s pro-talks faction signed a tripartite Memorandum of Settlement with the Centre and the Assam government.
    • The ULFA pro-talks faction was led by its chairperson Arabinda Rajkhowa.
      • This faction joined peace talks with the government on September 3, 2011, after an agreement for Suspension of Operations was signed between it and central and state governments.
    • The hardline faction of the ULFA headed by Paresh Baruah is still not part of the peace accord.
      • Baruah reportedly lives along the China-Myanmar border.
  • A major development package will be given to Assam under the agreement with ULFA.

Q1) What is United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA)?

The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is a separatist militant organization that was formed in 1979 with the goal of achieving an independent state for the Assamese people in Assam, a state in northeast India. The group's original name was the "Secret Seven" and it was formed by students who were dissatisfied with the Indian government's policies towards the state of Assam.

Q2) What is the geographical location of Assam?

Assam is a state located in the northeastern part of India. It is bordered by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh to the north, Nagaland and Manipur to the east, Mizoram and Tripura to the south, and West Bengal to the west. The Brahmaputra River, one of the major rivers of Asia, flows through the state from east to west, dividing it into two distinct regions: North Assam and South Assam. The state has a diverse geography, with the Brahmaputra valley in the north and the Barak valley in the south, surrounded by hills and mountains.

Source: ULFA signs peace accord with Centre, Assam govt | South Asia Terrorism Portal | Hindustan Times | The Hindu