ULFA signs peace accord with Centre, Assam government

New Delhi: The pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) on Friday signed a peace accord with the central and Assam governments agreeing to shun violence and join the mainstream.

The agreement, signed in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, came after 12 years of unconditional negotiations between the ULFA faction led by Arabinda Rajkhowa and the government, officials said.

The peace pact is expected to end decades-old insurgency in Assam.

However, the hardline faction of the ULFA headed by Paresh Baruah is not part of the agreement. Baruah is believed to be residing at a place along the China-Myanmar border.

The ULFA was formed in 1979 with the demand for a “sovereign Assam”.

Since then, it has been involved in subversive activities that led to the central government declaring it a banned outfit in 1990.

The Rajkhowa faction joined peace talks with the government on September 3, 2011, after an agreement for Suspension of Operations (SoO) was signed between it and central and state governments.

Chronology of events associated with ULFA since its inception:

April 7, 1979: United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) formed at Rang Ghar, an Ahom era amphitheatre, in Assam’s Sivasagar.

June, 1979: Members meet at Moran to discuss outfit’s name, symbol, flag and constitution.

1980: Begins flexing its muscles by targeting Congress politicians, business houses from outside the state, tea gardens and public sector companies, particularly oil and gas sector.

1985-1990: Assam slips into turmoil during the first term of the Asom Gana Parishad government-led by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta with the ULFA unleashing a spate of kidnappings, extortions and killings, including Russian engineer Sergei.

November 1990: Unilever’s seven tea executives airlifted from Doomdooma with the help of Union home ministry and without the knowledge of the Assam government.

November 28, 1990: Operation Bajrang launched by Army against ULFA. The operations were led by GOC 4 Corps Commander Lt Gen Ajay Singh who later went on to become Assam’s Governor.

November 29, 1990: President’s Rule imposed with the dismissal of Mahanta-led AGP government.

November 1990: Assam declared a Disturbed Area and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act invoked. ULFA declared a separatist and unlawful organization.

January 31, 1991: Operation Bajrang called off. Then Prime Minister Chandrasekhar informs Rajya Sabha that central government would take necessary steps if ULFA expressed willingness for political talks.

ULFA responded that no talks was possible as long as army operation and President’s Rule continued, and that there would be no compromise on their demand of Assam’s ‘sovereignty’.

June, 1991: Congress government led by Hiteswar Saikia assumes office.

September,1991: Operation Rhino launched against ULFA.

March 1992: ULFA splits into two factions with a section coming over ground and surrendering and organising themselves as Surrendered ULFA (SULFA) 1996: AGP returns to power and Prafulla Kumar Mahanta becomes chief minister for the second time.

January 1997: Unified Command, comprising army, state police and para-military forces, headed by the chief secretary constituted for coordinated strategy and operations against ULFA.

1997-2000: Series of killings of family members of ULFA militants allegedly by SULFA which was termed as ‘Secret Killings’.

2001: Congress government with Tarun Gogoi as the chief minister assumes office.

December 2003: ‘Operation All Clear’ launched by the Royal Bhutan Army to close down ULFA and other NE militants camps in the neighbouring country.

2004: ULFA agrees to hold talks with the government.

September 2005: ULFA constitutes 11-member People’s Consultative Group (PCG). Three rounds of talks, led by eminent Jnanpith award winning author Indira (Mamoni) Raisom Goswami, held with Centre but failed to make any headway.

June, 2008: Leaders of ULFA’s 28th Battalion declare unilateral ceasefire.

December, 2009: ULFA top leaders, including chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, arrested in Bangladesh, deported to India and jailed in Guwahati.

December 2010: Jailed ULFA leader forms ‘Citizen Forum’, comprising intellectuals, writers, journalists and professionals to urge government for talks.

2011: Rajkhowa and other jailed leaders released. ULFA splits into two factions: ULFA (Pro-talks) led by Rajkhowa, and ULFA(Independent), headed by Paresh Barua.

2012: ULFA submits 12-point charter of demands to the government.

2015: ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia released from a Bangladesh jail after serving a term of 18 years since 1997.

May 2021: BJP’s Himanta Biswa Sarma becomes chief minister and extends olive branch to Paresh Barua-led ULFA(I).

April 2023: Centre sends draft of the proposed agreement to the ULFA (pro-talks) faction.

October 2023: Anup Chetia informs that suggestions regarding the draft proposals sent to Centre.

December 29, 2023: Tripartite signing of Memorandum of Settlement between the Centre, state government and ULFA (pro-talks) faction.