After peace pact, 1615 NDFB cadres surrender arms, ammunition in Assam

Guwahati, Jan 30 (PTI) Three days after signing a peace pact with the government, over 1,600 cadres of the Bodo militant group NDFB on Thursday surrendered their arms and ammunition before Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the National Democratic Front of Boroland's (NDFB) move, saying it sends a clear message that a solution to any issue is possible when the path of violence is shunned and faith in democracy and Constitution reposed.

Welcoming the NDFB cadres -- 836 of the NDFB-Progressive, 579 of the NDFB-Ranjan Daimary faction and 200 of the NDFB(S) led by B Saoraigwra -- into the mainstream, Sonowal said he was confident that the initiative will inspire others, who were yet to give up arms, to come together and work for the 'Team Assam'.

Over 4,800 weapons, including AK rifles, light-machine guns and stenguns were laid down by the NDFB members on the occasion.

The government on Monday had signed an accord with the NDFB and two other outfits, providing political and economic benefits without acceding to the demand for a separate state or Union Territory, with an aim to bring permanent peace in the Bodo-dominated areas in Assam.

Sonowal said it was a historic day coinciding with the 72nd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and this day would mark a new chapter of peace and development in the Bodo areas.

The chief minister said a comprehensive rehabilitation policy would be formulated for providing employment opportunities to the surrendered militants so that they could make meaningful contribution to the process of nation-building.

Thanking the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for their initiative to bring permanent peace to Assam and the Northeast, Sonowal said the peace accord would further strengthen the unity and integrity of the state.

He also appreciated the roles played by his cabinet colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was present on the occasion, and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohilary for bringing the process to fruition.

'We will have to work together for Team Assam to make it a front-runner state in India and the whole of South-East Asia. By giving up the path of violence, you have come forward to walk on the road of development,' he said.

The Monday's pact was signed by top leaders of the four NDFB factions, the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU), which has been spearheading a movement for a Bodoland state since 1972, and the United Bodo People's Organisation in presence of the Union Home Minister in New Delhi.

Sonowal also signed the pact as one of the witnesses.

Shah had described the agreement as 'historic' and said it would bring permanent solution to the decades-old problems of the Bodo people.

The home minister also said that over the past few decades, over 4,000 people lost their lives in the violence perpetrated by the Bodo militants.

The NDFB was responsible for a series of violent acts in the past few decades, including the massacre of nearly 70 Adivasis in December 2014.

As per the accord, the BTC will be strengthened with more powers and its seats will be expanded from 40 to 60. A commission will be set up for inclusion of Bodo-dominated villages in the BTC and exclusion of those where Bodos are not in majority.

This was the third Bodo accord to be signed in 27 years.

The first accord was signed with the All Bodo Students Union in 1993, leading to the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council with limited political powers.

In 2003, the second accord was signed with the militant group Bodo Liberation Tigers, leading to formation of a BTC with four districts of Assam -- Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri -- called Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD).

As per the new accord, the name of the BTAD will be changed to Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) and it will have more executive, administrative, legislative and financial powers.

The BTC currently has control over 30 subjects such as education, forests, horticulture but no jurisdiction over the police, revenue and general administration departments, which are controlled by the Assam government.

The BTC was formed under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution.

The Assam government will soon notify Bodo language as in Devanagari script as an associate official language of the state. PTI ESB ACB ACB TIR TIR