Guwahati: From guns to
roses, life turned full circle for close to 700 militants from
nine separatist groups in Assam Tuesday when they laid down arms
to join the mainstream in the presence of union Home Minister P.
In one of northeast India's biggest surrender ceremonies in
Assam's main city of Guwahati, a total of 676 militants laid down
weapons and in return received roses from the home minister.
"Today is a historic day as not very often one sees so many
militant groups shunning the path of violence and joining the
national mainstream," said Chidambaram.
"Leave the past behind and look to the future positively. We
assure that each one of you would be treated equally and be able
to lead a life of dignity and honour," he added.
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.
The nine outfits are Adivasi Peoples' Army (APA), All Adivasi
National Liberation Army (AANLA), Santhal Tiger Force (STF), Birsa
Commando Force (BSF), Adivasi Cobra Militant Army (ACMA), the Kuki
Liberation Army (KLA), Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA), the United
Kukigram Defence Army (UKDA) and the Hmar Peoples'
"The peace talks with the pro-talk faction of the ULFA (United
Liberation Front of Asom) led by its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa
are under way while the proposed peace talks with the Dima Halam
Daogah (Niranjan) faction is in the final stage," the home
All the nine militant groups are already observing ceasefires with
the government, although formal peace talks are yet to begin. Most
of these groups were either fighting for secession, or some for
"We have realised the futility of an armed struggle and decided to
join the mainstream with the sincere hope that our grievances
could be resolved through negotiations with the government,"
Javerez Khaka, chairman of the Adivasi Cobra Militant of Assam,
told IANS soon after laying down arms.
Donning camouflage fatigues and bandanas, most of the militants
recounted the hard life in the jungles and their acts of violence.
"Life was hard in the jungles, and at times we regret when our
attacks leads to loss of lives of innocent civilians," a battle
hardened Kuki rebel said requesting not to be named.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, senior army, police, and civil
officials, were also present at the surrender ceremony.
"This could be the beginning of a new dawn of peace and hope in
Assam. Surely today is a historic day for Assam and we hope a few
more factions opposed to the peace process also realise the
futility of an armed struggle and join the mainstream," the chief
minister told IANS.
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.
"Now almost all the militant groups operating in Assam have joined
the mainstream and just a few factions are only active," said
Khagen Sharma, chief of the Assam Police Special Branch.
According to plans, the government would lodge these militants in
designated camps until peace accords are signed with the
government following formal talks.