Guwahati: As part of the Centre’s renewed outreach to the Northeast, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday inaugurated multiple projects and laid foundation stones for a slew of others during a widely publicised one-day visit to Assam.
Addressing a rally in Diphu, in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district, Modi said that a dip in violence had enabled the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from parts of the Northeast last month, adding that the Centre is working towards the complete removal of the Act from the region.
The Centre’s efforts to negotiate a swift resolution to boundary disputes between states in the Northeast also found mention in the prime minister’s speech.
“With the spirit of sabkas saath, sabka vikas (everyone’s support, everyone’s development) in mind, the solution to boundary-related issues is being sought today. The recent agreement reached between Assam and Meghalaya will encourage others too,” he said.
In March, Assam and Meghalaya signed an agreement resolving six of their 12 longstanding boundary disputes.
The rally — titled the ‘Peace, Unity and Development Rally’ — was attended by Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, state cabinet ministers Pijush Hazarika and Jogen Mohan, and Tuliram Ronghang, chief executive member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council.
Removal of AFSPA
Speaking at the rally, Modi said, “Since peace has prevailed for the last eight years, we removed AFSPA in several areas. We are working towards peace in other areas as well, so that AFSPA can be removed. In Nagaland and Manipur too, the government is working towards this.”
“There has been a decrease of 75 per cent in violence in the region. That is why AFSPA was first removed in Meghalaya and Tripura. In Assam, it was in place for three decades, but in the previous years, the situation was so handled that the Act was removed from 23 districts of the state,” he added.
AFSPA was withdrawn in Tripura in 2015 and in Meghalaya and parts of Arunachal Pradesh in 2018. And on 31 March this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced a reduction in the list of “disturbed areas” in Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland.
As a result, the Act was withdrawn completely from 23 districts in Assam, 15 police stations across six districts in Manipur, and 15 police stations across seven districts in Nagaland.
Karbi Anglong peace accord
In his speech, Modi added that the implementation of the tripartite Karbi Anglong peace accord was coming along well. “The accord was signed for peace and development in Assam. Work is now happening fast to implement it,” he said.
A prolonged insurgent movement seeking a separate state for the Karbi people has plunged the region into a spiral of violence from the mid-1990s onward.
Signed in September last year between the Centre, the Assam government and five insurgent groups, the peace accord has sought to put an end to the crisis.
The insurgent groups who have signed on to the peace accord are: People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK), Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger (KPLT), Kuki Liberation Front (KLF) and United Peoples Liberation Army (UPLA).
“Last year, several organisations from Karbi Anglong joined the resolve for peace and development. The Bodo Accord opened new doors for lasting peace in 2020,” the prime minister added, referring to an earlier peace agreement reached with Bodo insurgents.
Amrit Sarovar project
During his visit to Diphu, the prime minister also laid the foundation stone for 2,985 Amrit Sarovar projects to be developed at a cost of Rs 1,150 crore.
Essentially multipurpose reservoirs, these water bodies will be used for water supply, fishery, recreational activities and irrigation. As many as 75 water bodies are to be built across Karbi Anglong district as part of the project to mark the 75th year of India’s Independence.
In addition, Modi will lay the foundation stone of a veterinary college in Diphu, a degree college in West Karbi Anglong, and an agricultural college in West Karbi Anglong’s Kolonga.
After Diphu, the prime minister visited Dibrugarh to lay the foundation stone of seven cancer hospitals. These hospitals are to be constructed under the first phase of the Assam Cancer Care Foundation — a joint venture of the Government of Assam and Tata Trusts.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)