Triumph in ULFA Peace Accord marks a national security milestone

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

Recently, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Assam government signed a memorandum of settlement with the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).


  • Historical:
    • Assamese people have their own unique culture, language, and a strong sense of identity. 
    • Starting in the 19th century, the region’s tea, coal and oil economy attracted migrants from all over.
      • The indigenous population started to feel insecure
      • This was further exacerbated by the Partition and the subsequent exodus of refugees into the state from the erstwhile East Pakistan.
    • The competition for resources skyrocketed, resulting in a six-year-long mass movement. 
    • Eventually, the Assam Accord, seeking to “find a satisfactory solution to the problem of foreigners in Assam”, was signed in 1985.
  • Emergence of ULFA:
    • Amidst all this, a group of more radical thinkers, led by Bhimakanta Buragohain, Arabinda Rajkhowa, Anup Chetia, Pradip Gogoi, Bhadreshwar Gohain and Paresh Baruah, formed ULFA on April 7, 1979.
    • Active military operations and strategies that included kinetic action, psychological initiatives and developmental imperatives won the day, and ULFA soon emerged out of control.
    • The founders of ULFA wanted to establish a sovereign Assamese nation through an armed struggle against the Indian state. 
    • For over 44 years, this ‘struggle’ has been chequered with kidnappings and extortion, executions and bomb blasts, leading to tragic loss of life in Assam and beyond.
  • International linkages of ULFA:
    • It had bases in five neighbouring countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal and Myanmar - which allowed for a strategic encirclement of the Northeast.
    • ULFA has links to other insurgent outfits in the Northeast and Myanmar, as well as Islamic terror outfits like Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami and Al-Qaeda.
  • Government of India’s response:
    • At the same time, the Indian state’s response has also been unsparing. 
      • In 1990, the Centre launched Operation Bajrang, leading to the arrest of 1,221 ULFA insurgents.
      • Assam was declared a ‘disturbed area’.
      • The President's rule was imposed.
      • Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was invoked.
    • Yet, the ULFA has survived, in some part due to help from outside India.
  • Earlier peace deals:
    • In 2005, the ULFA formed an 11-member ‘People’s Consultative Group’ (PCG). 
      • The committee mediated three rounds of talks before the ULFA walked out of the discussions and unleashed a new wave of terror.
    • Some ULFA commanders, from 2008 onwards, again strived for peace talks with the government but failed.
    • The pro-talks faction, in 2012, submitted a 12-point charter of demands to the central government, which was finally responded to recently.

Key achievements of the newly signed Peace Accord:

  • It is a tripartite agreement between the Central government, the Assam government and ULFA.
  • The key points of the peace accord were that 97 out of 126 Assembly seats in Assam would be reserved for indigenous people, and the future delimitation exercise would follow this principle.
  • ₹1.5 lakh crore investment had been pledged in the peace accord, and constitutional safeguards would be ensured by protecting land rights and putting restrictions on migration from one constituency to another.
  • ULFA agreed to shun violence, disband the organisation, and join the democratic process.
  • The ULFA has also agreed to vacate all camps occupied by its armed cadres, engage in the peaceful democratic process established by law and maintain the country's integrity.
  • The Centre has agreed to provide a huge package and several big projects for the all-round development of Assam.

Other peace agreements signed with insurgent groups in North-East:

  • NLFT agreement in 2019 
  • Bru and Bodo pacts in 2020
  • Karbi in 2021
  • Adivasi agreement in 2022
  • Assam-Meghalaya border agreement
  • Assam-Arunachal border agreement
  • Agreement with UNLF in 2023

Way forward:

  • Rehabilitation of the surrendered insurgents can pave the way for long-term stability and peace, allowing the region to focus on development initiatives.
  • To further improve governance in the region, an inclusive growth model, enhancing trust and transparency and reaching down to the grass-roots level is essential.
  • Promoting trade-induced industrialisation can create new employment opportunities, stimulate growth, and strengthen regional integration.
  • There is a need to focus on excellent education levels; more people should join the national mainstream through central jobs in the private sector and bring a fresh perspective.
  • There is a need to ensure greater transparency in AFSPA.

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