Centre, Assam sign peace pact with Dimasa groups

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 09, 2012 04:50 hrs

New Delhi, Oct 8 (IANS) The central and Assam governments Monday clinched a key peace agreement with the two factions of Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) that is expected to bring them into the democratic mainstream.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi were present when the Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) was inked here, under which the DHD factions will dissolve their outfits within six months.

The agreement came about following several rounds of tripartite talks and as a result of this process, it has been agreed to initiate time-bound steps to bring about greater devolution of power to grass root level in the Dima Hasao district, a government official said here.

Increased capacity building for developmental activities at all levels will also be ensured.

Under the pact, the central government will soon initiate the process to implement the decisions, which include renaming of the existing North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) as the Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council (DHATC).

"Signing of the MoS with both factions of DHD marks the culmination of the peace overtures of the government and it is expected that DHD-J and DHD-N shall join the peaceful, democratic political process as established by the law, which will usher in a new era of hope and prosperity in Dima Hasao district," Shinde said.

"The agreement has sent out a message to the entire nation that if one district demands peace, then there is no way it cannot happen," he said.

The state government too has agreed to reorganise the existing autonomous district into three administrative units for better development management, as per procedure established under law.

"I am happy that militant groups have come to realise the futility of taking up arms. The negotiation process is slow, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The government is committed to a meaningful dialogue," Gogoi said on the occasion.

Under the agreement, increasing the restructured council's membership too has been agreed in principle, apart from transferring 39 administrative responsibilities to the council.

The increase in the territorial council's strength will ensure suitable representation to all communities. Besides, the provision for setting up village level councils for devolution of powers to the grass roots will benefit non-Dimasa tribes also.

A special economic package of Rs.200 crore ($40 million) over the next five years at the rate of Rs.40 crore ($8 million) a year will be provided to DHATC over and above the Plan fund to undertake special projects by the council.

However, the package benefits will accrue to all communities living in the territory under DHATC, including non-tribals.

Assam has agreed in principle to set up a development council with a suitable package for preservation and promotion of culture and language of people belonging to tribes like Hojai and Barman, which would be decided by the state government, living outside the present Dima Hasao district.

The MoS also specifically states that the heritage sites of non-Dimasa indigenous tribal are to be preserved and maintained.

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