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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Pact with 5 rebel groups raises hopes of peace in Karbi Anglong

The agreement grants greater devolution of autonomy to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council apart from providing protection to the language, culture and identity of the region and reservation to the Karbi people.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
September 5, 2021 4:12:58 am
Representatives of different groups at North Block, before signing the Karbi Anglong peace pact, on Saturday. (PTI)

Moving to end decades of violence in Karbi Anglong in Assam, the Centre signed a tripartite agreement Saturday with five insurgent groups from the region and the state government.

The agreement grants greater devolution of autonomy to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council apart from providing protection to the language, culture and identity of the region and reservation to the Karbi people.

The consolidated fund of the state, the government said, would be augmented to supplement the development of the region. A special development package of Rs 1000 crore over five years will be provided for projects there.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Those present included representatives of the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK), United People’s Liberation Army (UPLA), Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) and the Kuki Liberation Front (KLF).


Melting pot, on boil for long

Located in central Assam, Karbi Anglong is the state’s largest district and a melting pot of ethnicities and tribal groups — Karbi, Dimasa, Bodo, Kuki, Hmar, Tiwa, Garo, Man (Tai speakers), Rengma Naga. Its diversity also spawned different outfits and fuelled an insurgency that did not allow the region to develop. This agreement hopes to put that in the past.

Shipping Minister and former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, MoS (Home) Nityanand Rai, KAAC Executive Member Tuliram Ronghang, the Union Home Secretary and the IB Director too were present.

Following the signing of the agreement, Shah described it as another milestone in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “insurgency-free prosperous North East”. He said: “This day is going to be written in golden letters in the history of Assam. Today, five groups have decided to abjure violence and join the mainstream. We are fully committed to their rehabilitation.”

“It is our policy to give respect to those who lay down arms and give them more than they demand to help them join the mainstream. I assure all those present here that we will fulfil all promises made in the agreement in scheduled time,” Shah said.

Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said: “It is a historic day for Assam. In Karbi, there was unrest based on some justified demands. It was also a backward area. After taking all this into consideration, the Karbi Accord was drafted.”

“In this, for the first time, Karbi and Scheduled Tribes people will get reservation. In no Sixth Schedule region, there is provision for reservation to a Scheduled Tribe. This accord will grant Scheduled Tribe status to Karbi staying in the plains as well. We will also work on taking the Karbi language to the national level as demanded by the Karbi people,” he said.

The Karbi have been demanding a separate state since 1946. Later, their movement took the shape of an insurgency which intensified in the 1990s. The Centre signed various ceasefire agreements with different groups but there were always breakaway factions that continued armed struggle.

In February 2021, just ahead of the Assam assembly polls, 1,040 militants of five Karbi outfits surrendered before then Chief Minister Sonowal. The current accord is a result of negotiations with the five groups since then.

Sarma said the agitation in Karbi Anglong had started along with the Assam agitation and had continued till date. He said the accord was in line with the government bringing peace in the Bodoland region and signing an agreement with the Bru people.

In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “With this historic agreement, over 1000 armed cadres have abjured violence and joined the mainstream of society. A Special Development Package of Rs 1000 crore over five years will be given by the Union Government and Assam Government to undertake specific projects for the development of Karbi areas.”

The Memorandum of Settlement, the MHA said, will ensure greater devolution of autonomy to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, protection of identity, language, culture, etc. of Karbi people and focused development of the Council area, without affecting the territorial and administrative integrity of Assam.

According to the Accord, the Assam government shall set up a Karbi Welfare Council for focused development of Karbi people living outside the KAAC area. The Consolidated Fund of the state will be augmented to supplement the resources of KAAC. “Overall, the present settlement proposes to give more legislative, executive, administrative and financial powers to KAAC,” the MHA said.

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