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1st January 2024 (10 Topics)

Endgame: On the tripartite agreement

Context:

The signing of a tripartite agreement, in New Delhi, between the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom, the Union government and the Assam State government marks the end of a process that began in 2009.

Historical Context and Pro-Talks Faction's Evolution

  • Initiating the Talks Process (2009-2011): The signing of a tripartite agreement in New Delhi concludes a process initiated in 2009 when key ULFA leaders surrendered, and a unilateral ceasefire was declared in 2011.
  • Opposition from ULFA (Independent): The leader Paresh Baruah opposed the dialogue, insisting on the "sovereignty issue," leading to a split with his faction, ULFA (Independent), remaining hostile to peace talks.
  • Weakening of ULFA (Independent): ULFA (Independent) has weakened, with Baruah believed to be in Myanmar. The outfit lost popular support due to violent tactics and a flawed chauvinist ideology.

Challenges and Evolution of Pro-Talks Faction's Demands

  • Military Operations and Extradition: Bhutan's military actions in the early 2000s and Bangladesh's extradition of leaders weakened ULFA. The pro-talks faction revised demands, abandoning sovereignty and focusing on indigenous interests.
  • Charter Revisions and Recruitment Decline: The pro-talks faction adjusted its charter, abandoning sovereignty and seeking an honorable exit. Reports suggest a drastic decline in recruits to ULFA (Independent) in recent years.
  • Subsiding Militancy Threat: The threat of militancy from remnants of ULFA has dramatically subsided in Assam, but challenges persist in raising the livelihood standards of the peasantry.

Need for Socioeconomic Development and the Way Forward

  • Persistent Poverty and Mobilization: Persistent poverty in Assam remains a key factor for mobilization on ethnic lines. ULFA's radical version exploited discontent, emphasizing the need for socioeconomic development.
  • Diminishing Returns of Violence: ULFA's violent tactics targeting civilians led to diminishing returns and loss of popular support. The conclusion of talks highlights the importance of addressing the root causes of discontent.
  • Post-Talks Challenges: While the threat of militancy has decreased, efforts are needed to elevate the livelihood standards of Assam's peasantry, addressing the socioeconomic factors that fueled radical mobilization.
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