The ULFA Story and the Historic Tripartite Agreement

  • A memorandum of settlement was signed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Assam government, and the pro-talks side of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
  • This “tripartite settlement is significant for Assam’s peace,” according to the government, who claims to have succeeded in removing all violent groups in the state.

Assam’s and ULFA’s Struggle

  • The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was founded in 1979 by radical thinkers in response to growing worries about the identity and resources of the indigenous Assamese population.
  • Cultural and Economic Transitions: The flood of migrants caused by the expanding tea, coal, and oil industries, combined with the Partition and refugee influx, heightened concerns among local Assamese.
  • The Assam Agreement of 1985: Aimed at resolving the issue of foreigners in Assam, the Accord was a response to a prolonged mass movement but failed to address all concerns, leading to the formation of ULFA.

Four Decades of Violence and the State’s Reaction

  • Armed Struggle of the ULFA: Through armed warfare, the group sought a sovereign Assamese nation, resulting in kidnappings, extortion, and loss of life.
  • In response, the Indian government launched Operation Bajrang in 1990, imposing President’s rule as well as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Assam.
  • Internal Divisions and Allegations from the State: Internal squabbles arose within the ULFA, with one faction (SULFA) surrendering and allegedly carrying out state-sponsored’secret executions’ of other ULFA members.

ULFA’s External Support and Links

  • Camps in Neighbouring Countries for External Support and Links: ULFA established camps in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, using them for training, housing, and the launch of cross-border operations.
  • Connections with Global Terrorist Organisations: The group formed ties with Islamic terror organisations and Pakistan’s ISI, with its military chief reportedly meeting Osama Bin Laden.
  • Initial Peace Talks: In 2005, the ULFA organised a ‘People’s Consultative Group’ for peace talks, but discussions fell through, leading to further violence.
  • Renewed Peace Efforts: Following 2008, several ULFA commanders, particularly Arabinda Rajkhowa, pursued peace talks, resulting in a serious schism within the organisation.
  • Demands of the Pro-Talks side: In 2012, the pro-talks side submitted a 12-point charter of demands, resulting in current conversations and the historic tripartite peace deal.

Tripartite Peace Treaty

  • The accord reached by the pro-talks ULFA side, the administration of India, and the Assam state administration is a crucial step towards peace.
  • Opinions of Experts: Journalists and specialists like Rajeev Bhattacharya see the agreement as a welcome step forward, but they are sceptical about its completeness and usefulness.
  • Optimism in the Government: The Union Home Minister voiced trust in the accord as ushering in a new era of peace, while the Assam Chief Minister expressed interest in engaging with the anti-talks side.

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