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Assam rebels’ arms surrender no cause for cheer


wasbir hussain
DIRECTOR, Centre for Development and Peace Studies

If anyone is euphoric over the surrender of some 200 weapons by a band of 676 rebel cadres belonging to seven militant groups in the State, it is the Assam Police. A senior Assam Police official has been quoted by a section of the media as saying that the State has been purged of all ‘established’ insurgent groups with the laying of arms on 24 January 2012 in Guwahati. A daily quoted Additional Director General of Police (Special Branch) Khagen Sarma as saying: “What is left are splinter groups and breakaway factions of groups in ceasefire. They have nothing but nuisance value…” He was also quoted as saying the Government would now fast-track the peace process and reach settlements with the rebel groups at the earliest.

If one is to take this statement by the official seriously, it would mean that Assam has become free from insurgency. And if ‘splinter groups, deserters and breakaway factions’ are the only remaining problem, then the security establishment in Assam has to deal with the following: the anti-talk ULFA faction headed by Paresh Baruah; the NDFB faction headed by Ranjan Daimary; the DHD (Dilip Nunisa faction) that is nowhere near signing a peace deal; the new Dimasa splinter bands of armed men; the KLNLF in Karbi Anglong, and a few others. If that isn’t enough, Assam now has a Maoist rebellion at hand, a rebellion that is threatening to assume dangerous proportions because the ‘red rebels’ have already established links with the anti-talk ULFA faction and Meitei insurgent groups like the PLA.

Dealing with these splinter groups, deserters and breakaway factions’ aside, of course, the Maoists, is going to be a tall order for the security forces in Assam. And the worst possible scenario is that these groups could well be granted the much needed legitimacy by none other than the police or a section within the police force or the Government itself. Then what happens—yet another round of so-called truce and a so-called peace process. The cycle simply goes on. What today is sought to be dismissed as nothing but ‘splinter groups, deserters and breakaway factions’ could well be the key players of insurgent politics tomorrow with the Government joining the game of playing peace makers.

Both Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who flew down from Delhi, sought to describe the arms laying event ‘historic.’ But what is ‘historic’ is difficult to say because it is hard to believe that the Government has any definite blueprint by way of a formula to each of these rebel groups with which to resolve the problems. The groups whose cadres laid down arms on 24 January were the Santhal Tiger Force, Adivasi People's Army, All Adivasi National Liberation Army, Kuki Liberation Army, United Kukigram Defence Army, Kuki Revolutionary Army, and the Hmar People's Convention. The Birsa Commando Force, and Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam, were ‘active participants’ at the event but did not actually lay down weapons.

If anything, the so-called deal with the UPDS in Karbi Anglong was a fiasco. What is it that the Government has given that is anything substantial in that deal? The UPDS did not even get to contest the Council polls with an interim administration in place unlike the erstwhile Bodo Liberation Tiger rebels who got to rule at the new politico-administrative structure in an interim arrangement before facing the electorate. Going by precedent, one is not euphoric about 24 January's arms laying event. Even the media hype was missing. Chief Minister Gogoi and Union Home Minister Chidambaram delivered boring and lackluster speeches. Actually, they came, saw but did not commit anything.

If nothing concrete comes out of shows like the one on 24 January, insurgency can never be eliminated from a state like Assam. The Government must come up with serious solutions, solutions that have the mechanism to last and prevent a new insurgency from brewing. Unless that happens, Assam will have to live with insurgency for all times to come. O yes, don’t we know that some people in the political and security establishment want that insurgency should linger and do not come to an end!

(courtesy: The Sentinel)