Over 500 Assam militants to surrender Tuesday

One of northeast India’s biggest surrender ceremonies is taking place Tuesday in Assam with an estimated 500 militants from nine different separatist groups of the state laying down arms to join the mainstream.

The function is being held in Guwahati with union Home Minister P. Chidambaram expected to be present, besides Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, and senior army, police, and civil officials.

"We are happy that influential militant groups operating in the state have agreed to surrender en masse to join the mainstream and begin formal talks with the government," Gogoi told IANS.

The nine groups are part of two major ethnic groups - the tribal Kukis in eastern Assam and the Adivasis inhabiting the northern and western parts of Assam.

"Five of the groups are from the Adivasi community and four from the Kuki tribe and we are expecting anything between 500 to 600 militants to surrender along with weapons and ammunition before the home minister," a senior Assam police official said.

Among the major groups that are surrendering are the Kuki Revolutionary Army, the Hmar People’s Convention, the Birsa Commando Force, and the Adivasi Cobra Militant of Assam.

All the nine militant groups are already observing cease-fire with the government, although formal peace talks are yet to begin. Most of these groups were either fighting for secession, or some for greater autonomy.

"Very soon we shall hold talks with all these groups and see to it that their genuine grievances are met," said Gogoi.

Barring the anti-talk faction of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) led by the elusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, almost all the influential rebel groups in Assam are now either holding talks with the government or in peace mode.

“We are hopeful of even the ULFA anti-talk group coming to the mainstream sooner rather than later. Most of the militant groups have now realized the futility of an armed struggle or violence,” Gogoi said.

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