Largest surrender by militants in Northeast



Guwahati: In one of the largest surrender ceremonies in the Northeast region, 1855 militants belonging to nine groups on Tuesday bid a farewell to arms before Union Home Minister 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," Chidambaram said.

"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 Chidambaram 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 People?s 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," Chidambaram said.

"You have many years of useful life, build a family, build India, contribute to 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.

Chidambaram 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. "Hope others will also follow."

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."

PTI