Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Largest surrender by militants in North East to HM

In one of the largest surrender ceremonies in the North East region, 1855 militants belonging to nine groups on Tuesday bid a farewell to arms before Union Home Min P Chidambaram and received roses for weapons turned in.

Among them were five major ethnic groups of the Adivashi Santhal outfits operating in upper Assam and three belonging to the Kukis besides a Hmar group inhabiting central Assam.

"Today is a historic day. It is not often that one witnesses a day when so many groups which had earlier taken to the path of militancy decide to take the path of peace, reconciliation and brotherhood," Chidamabaram said in Guwahati on Tuesday.

"I want to assure all of you that the governments of India and Assam will treat you as equal citizens of India with honour and dignity. The Government of India has welcomed the militants back to the fold. We believe we are a republic and a democracy where every voice deserves to be heard. Everyone is entitled to live with honour," said Chidamabaram at the function where Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Army GoCs of 3 and 4 Corps, and Director General of Police Jayant Narayan Chowdhury were also present.

"All differences can be settled through talks, consultations, efforts and endeavour. No knot can be left untied through patience," the home minister said.

The underground groups were Adivashi Peoples Army (APA), All Adivashi National Liberation Army (AANLA), Santhal Tiger Force (STF), Birsa Commando Force (BCF), Adivashi Cobra Military of Assam (ACMA), Kuki Liberation Army (KLA)/Kuki Liberation Organisation (KLO), Hmar Peoples Convention (HPC), United Kukigam Defence Army (UKDA) and Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA).

Already in ceasefire agreement with the government, the nine groups fighting either for secession or for greater autonomy submitted charters of demand to the government.

Led by chairmen and 'commanders', the militants surrendered 201 assorted arms and ammunition.

"Leave the past behind and look at the future positively. We will reach out to you. You must look forward to the future with hope, cheer, optimism and love for brotherhood," Chidamabaram said.

"You have many years of useful life, build a family, build India, contribute to the the future of India and Assam. I welcome you all on behalf of India and wish you a prosperous life," said the minister.

"In the last few years we have reached out to a large number of groups proving the vitality of our democracy," he said.

He also exhorted the surrenderees to remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabbhai Patel and that all Indians were one and that India had a place for all.

Chidamabaram said the ULFA and NDFB were participating in the peace process and negotiations with other militant groups were nearing conclusion portending well for the country.

The chief minister said "You have realised the futility of continuing with an armed struggle. It is a good message to the whole country that militancy will not benefit anybody. Problems can be solved only through the democratic process," Gogoi said.

Stating that the doors were open for all militants for talks, Gogoi renewed his appeal to hardliner ULFA 'c-in-c' Paresh Baruah to negotiate for peace.

"I also urge those contemplating to take up arms not to do so. We will firmly deal with those going against the interest of the state and country, he said."

The chief minister said that militants had grievances and the path they chose had led to hardship for their families and the state.

"So many innocent people, your cadres and your family members lost their lives. We don't want conflict. You are all are our brothers and sisters," he said.

Talking to reporters, ACMA chairman Javerez Khaka said, "We have realised the futility of an armed struggle and so decided to join the mainstream with the sincere hope that our grievances will be resolved through negotiations with the government."

The militants dressed in battle fatigue and bandanas recounted their hard life in jungles and their acts of violence and said that they regretted the loss of innocent lives caused by their actions.

Guns, pistols, ammunition and grenades were on display at the surrender ceremony.

Official sources said the weapons were yet to be classified and some were country-made.

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