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Greater autonomy, dedicated fund, development: what the Karbi Anglong agreement brings to Assam

A special package of around Rs 1,000 crores was sanctioned by Home Minister Amit Shah for developmental projects in the Karbi areas Saturday.

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New Delhi: A tripartite agreement among five of Assam’s insurgent outfits, the Centre, and the state was signed Saturday to end years of violence and bring “peace and prosperity” in the state of Assam.

A special package of around Rs 1,000 crores was sanctioned by Home Minister Amit Shah for developmental projects in the Karbi areas.

Home Minister Amit Shah said the Karbi Anglong Agreement is another milestone in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “insurgency-free prosperous North East”.

Apart from the Bodoland movement and the one led by ULFA for a sovereign Assam, the Karbi insurgency — for a separate state of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills — is one of the several insurgencies that Assam has faced over the years.

In February, ahead of the Assam Assembly elections, over 1040 insurgents belonging to five militant outfits of the Karbi Anglong autonomous district had surrendered to the Assam Government. Ingti Kathar Songbijit, one of Assam’s most wanted insurgent leaders, accused in multiple cases of violence, was among them.

With the signing of the agreement, the union government said in a press release that those who shun violence will be “brought into the mainstream” and the government will “talk to them even more politely and give them more than their demands”.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Shipping and Waterways and Minister of AYUSH, Sarbananda Sonowal, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai, Chief Executive Member of KAAC, representatives of Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front, People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri, United People’s Liberation Army, Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers along with senior officers from Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Government of Assam.

Member of Parliament of Karbi Anglong, Horensing Bey told ThePrint that the agreement is a great move and a historic agreement. “Because of this agreement, permanent peace will prevail in the district now. People are very happy and have heartily welcomed and accepted this agreement. This will also bring development and prosperity to the region, while keeping the area’s ethnicity and autonomy intact,” he added.

Speaking to ThePrint, Tuliram Ronghang, Chief Executive Member of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council said, “In the history of Karbi Anglong this is the most successful accord where peace, harmony and development will prevail for Karbi Anglong.”

“The union government and the state government have made persistent efforts to fulfill the aspirations of the Karbi people. After several rounds of discussion and negotiations, this settlement has been signed which will ensure greater devolution of autonomy to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, protection of identity, language and culture of its people along with rehabilitation of cadres of armed groups and focussed development of council area — all this without affecting the territorial and administrative integrity of Assam,” he said.

Karbi Anglong, is the largest district in Assam and comprises various tribal and ethnic groups including the Kukis, Dimasas, Garos, Rengma Nagas, Tiwas and Karbis, and inter-tribe clashes were common making it one of the most volatile regions of Assam.

Located in central Assam, it is an autonomous district under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and is divided into two parts — East Karbi Anglong (EKA) and West Karbi Anglong (WKA) — with its administrative headquarters at Diphu town in EKA.
The Karbi Anglong District Council (KADC), which safeguards the rights of the tribal people, was upgraded to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) in April 1995.

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Greater autonomy to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council

According to the memorandum of settlement, greater “devolution and autonomy” will be granted to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council along with “protection of identity, language, culture of Karbi people and focussed development of the Council area, without affecting the territorial and administrative integrity of Assam.”

“The agreement also provides for the rehabilitation of cadres of the armed groups. The state government will also set up a Karbi Welfare Council for focussed development of Karbi people living outside KAAC area and a consolidated fund for resources of the Karbi people will be set aside,” a senior MHA official said to ThePrint. “The present settlement proposes to give more legislative, executive, administrative and financial powers to KAAC.”

The official further said the Northeast is “very important for our country from the aspects of security” and the aim of the union government is to end all disputes in the area by 2022”.

The government also hopes the settlement will foster the region’s culture and “to create attraction for it all across India. The aim is to make the Northeast a developed region and try to bring it back at par with the level of contribution made in pre-independence GDP,” the official added.

Renouncing violence

The tripartite MoU was signed twice in 1995 and 2011, but these agreements had failed to establish peace in Karbi-Anglong, the official said.

According to the agreement, the Karbi armed groups have agreed to renounce violence and to engage in a peaceful and democratic process. A provision has also been made in this agreement to rehabilitate the cadres of armed groups, the official added.

The recent agreement is the result of several rounds of talks between the central government and representatives of the Karbi and Kuki organisations in an effort to find a comprehensive and final solution to the demands of the Karbi group, while upholding the territorial integrity of Assam.

Karbi Anglong militants surrendered a total of 338 weapons and 11,000 rounds of ammunition including AK-series rifles, M16 rifles, LMGs, rocket launchers, the official said.

Projects signed

Under the agreement, 32 projects estimated at Rs 350 crore under the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council package announced under the previous agreement are in various stages of completion today.

“Moreover, 22 crore projects have been approved under the North-East Infrastructure Development Scheme. Under the NLCPR (Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources) scheme of Central Pool, 20 projects costing Rs 200 crores are under development,” the official said.

“The Assam Hill Medical College and Research Institute has been inaugurated at Diphu and the academic session has commenced and Construction of Cancer Care Center at Diphu is underway,” the official added.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

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