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Pro-talks group of Ulfa likely to sign peace agreement before 2024 Lok Sabha elections

Guwahati: The pro-talks group of banned insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) is likely to sign an agreement next month and a draft for the same was approved by the outfit on Wednesday.

Another group of the outfit, Ulfa (Independent) headed by fugitive rebel leader Paresh Baruah, however, is still out of the peace process.

Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia told reporters that a draft of the proposed tripartite agreement was shared and discussed with other senior leaders and more than 200 cadres from across Assam in its general council meeting on Wednesday in a resort in Kaziranga.

“We had a detailed discussion on the draft agreement with the Centre’s interlocutor A K Mishra. The same was submitted to Mishra after some additions and omissions. The draft has been submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Prime Minister’s Office for final approval. We are hopeful that a final agreement will be signed next month,” Chetia said. He said the Ulfa would be disbanded after signing of the final agreement.

Chetia, along with Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, vice-president Pradip Gogoi, “deputy commander-in-chief” Raju Baruah, foreign secretary Sasha Choudhury and others had started the peace talks in 2011 after they were “arrested and pushed back” from Bangladesh, where they had taken shelter for years. Ulfa had carried out “armed movement for sovereign Assam” since its formation in 1979.

Baruah group:

However, the Ulfa group led by Paresh Baruah refused to join the peace process without discussion on its core demand for sovereignty.

Baruah and his cadres are believed to be taking shelter in their hideouts somewhere along Myanmar-China borders. The outfit is still considered to be strong in four districts in eastern Assam, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh.

Most of the insurgent groups in Assam have signed agreements with the government after surrendering their weapons but the Ulfa-I has still remained out of the peace process. The Centre recently extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act for the four districts by another six months as the districts are still believed to be the outfit’s strongholds. CM Himanta Biswa Sarma had several times invited Baruah to join the peace process for signing a “comprehensive agreement.”

Contents of the agreement:

Sources said that Ulfa demanded reservation of 94 out of 126 seats in Assam Assembly for the state’s indigenous people, a flawless National Register of Citizens (NRC), beside others for ending the over four-decades-long conflict.

The Ulfa was formed as the government allegedly failed to solve Assam’s long problem of “illegal migration” from neighbouring Bangladesh. The process to update the NRC began in 2013 but it has remained in the back burner after the BJP-led government in Assam and some other organisations refused to accept the “final draft” that excluded 19.06 lakh applicants. Several petitions related to the NRC are pending in the Supreme Court.

(Published 26 October 2023, 08:57 IST)

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