Restoring peace

Multiple insurgencies in the North-East have troubled the Indian state for decades and most of them are still active. The 22-year-old militant struggle by the Dimasa tribals has caused much strife and loss of many lives in Assam’s Dima Hasao district (formerly known as North Cachar Hills district).

A tripartite agreement signed  last week between the Central and Assam governments and two factions of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) will hopefully usher in peace in the district.

The DHD militancy has a chequered history, with surrender to the  government, revival of rebellion, a ceasefire agreement and the splitting of the organisation in the last many years. The weakening of the organisation and the arrest of  many rebel  leaders helped the government to negotiate a peace agreement.

The demand of the Dimasas, the oldest inhabitants of Assam, has been for an autonomous territory within the state. The North Cachar Hills Council had failed to satisfy their aspirations as it was steeped in corruption and many of the members were arrested for misuse of power and funds.

The Council will now be renamed and reconstituted with more powers, and three other units will be created for better administration. It will also be provided with a development grant of Rs 200 crore over the next  five years. It is expected that the leaders of the militant groups will now abjure violence and enter democratic politics.

The Dimasa militancy, as in many other parts of the North-East, had involved extortions, abductions and other illegalities. With the signing of the agreement it is likely that normalcy will return to the area.

There is apprehension among the non-Dimasa people that they would be discriminated against in the new dispensation. There has been some unrest and violence in the days leading up to the agreement.

The government has promised that the development funds would be utilised for the benefit of all sections of people and that the interests of the non-Dimasa people would be protected.

The leaders of the DHD factions should also ensure this. This is especially important because of the history of ethnic hostility in the district. The autonomous council experiment has not always worked, sometimes because of deficiencies in the underlying agreement, and often because of the highhandedness of the dominant sections. Hopefully the latest one will work.

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