New groups in Assam protest Karbi-Anglong Peace Accord

Forum signals possible entry of a new movement as it demands creation of an autonomous state comprising the districts of Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao

Home Minister Amit Shah greets members of different groups of Assam, after the Karbi Anglong pact in New Delhi | Photo: PTI

Two dozen groups have come out against the recent peace pact between five insurgent groups from Central Assam’s Karbi Anglong district and the Central government, terming the accord a gross injustice.

The Union government signed the accord with the People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri, Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front, the Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger, the Kuki Liberation Front and the United Peoples’ Liberation Army on September 4. But what was termed an historic step to usher in peace is already being opposed in certain quarters.

According to the Memorandum of Settlement, the accord 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”. Under the agreements, the cadres of the five outfits will also shun violence and join the democratic process.

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Abinash Ronghang, convenor of the forum of the 24 organisations, called the accord an eyewash. The demand for an autonomous state, under the provision of the Article-244 (A) of the Constitution, did not materialise in the accord; the government and the negotiators did not even discuss the issue before finalising the pact, he said.

The forum signalled the possible entry of a new movement with newer demands as it demanded creation of an autonomous state comprising the districts of Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.

The forum was also critical of a clause regarding keeping 10 seats of the 50 in Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council unreserved, and said all the seats should be reserved for the ST community.

“All the seats in the council should be reserved for members of the ST community residing here, and there is no point keeping seats unreserved,” Ronghang added.

“Our protest will go on till the changes happen.”

However, the outfits that signed the accord downplayed the protests by these organisations and called them insignificant.

“They are mostly individuals and organisations with no contribution towards the cause. We have signed the accord looking at every aspect and in greater interest of our people,” said Rizak Dera, of the KLNLF.

Dera also said that none of the prominent personalities and intellectuals of Karbi Anglong had opposed the accord.

Asked about their next step post the signing of the accord, Dera said: “Some many enter politics – by joining an existing political party or forming a new political party – or some could enter business.”

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The accord also pledges a developmental package of 1,000 crore for the development of Karbi Anglong.

Experts familiar with the peace process in Assam said the emergence of new insurgent groups is a major concern.

A newly formed outfit, the Dimasa National Liberation Front (DNLA), massacred five people and set seven trucks on fire at Umrangso in Assam’s Dima Hasao district late on August 26. The outfit was formed in 2019. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs has admitted the severity of the situation. On February 22, while extending the Armed Forces Special Powers Act by a period of six months, it admitted newer emerging challenges.

The government admitted formation of a new insurgent outfit named Bodo State Liberation Tiger Force (BSLTF) by some disgruntled NDFB cadres who are unhappy with the Bodo Peace Accord signed on January 27, 2020. The BSLTF want inclusion of three more districts in Assam – Sonitpur, Biswanath and Dhemaji – in the BTR region.

“We initially had four or five insurgent groups in the state, but now newer groups are being formed and even splinter groups from the same mother groups with which, maybe, the government is holding talks,” said Pallab Bhattacharyya, for DGP of Assam

“The formation of such splinter groups is a major concern, and it is a reality that everyone can’t be satisfied and this results in few cadres breaking off and forming a new outfit with a newer set of demands,” he said.

Bhattacharyya said a possible solution could be to identify all these groups and their cadres district wise and designate deputy commissioners and superintendents of police to engage them in different trades with good monetary remuneration.

“This is one possible way. The cadres are mostly youths and they are frustrated,” he said.

Newer Groups, New Worry

The MHA in its notification said that the insurgent outfit ULFA (I), along with some other proxy ethnic militant groups, has engaged in terrorist activities including attacks on security forces, extortion, etc.

The notification also said that ULFA (I) is trying to create a new identity ‘West of South East Asia'(WSEA) in place of Northeast India, and that for this purpose it is also planning to kidnap resourceful persons.