New Delhi, Nov. 25: The United People's Democratic Solidarity today got a pre-Christmas bag of goodies from the Centre that included "enhanced autonomy" for Karbi Anglong, a one-time Rs 350 crore assistance besides another Rs 70 crore as staggered funding.
No wonder, the celebration outside North Block by people from Karbi Anglong today was a rare one.
The occasion was the much-awaited tripartite memorandum of settlement (MoS) between the Centre, Dispur and the UPDS, signed in the presence of Union home minister P. Chidambaram and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi along with Union home secretary R.K. Singh and senior Assam government officials.
"This is a historic moment," Chidambaram said.
Gogoi echoed Chidambaram, hoping to see final settlements with the Dima Halam Daogah and the National Democratic Front of Boroland shortly.
While the Karbis got their cakes for Christmas, the Dimasas in neighbouring Dima Hasao may taste success around New Year.
Sources told The Telegraph that by the year-end, the DHD groups are expected to reconcile themselves and come forward for a final solution. The UPDS MoS, the officials revealed, provides for an "enhanced autonomy" in Karbi Anglong. The government has also released a special financial package with a one-time financial assistance of Rs 350 crore, with Rs 70 crore of staggered funding per year based on project proposals. A separate state finance commission will be formed while the existing Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council will be turned into Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council.
For both these changes, amendments will be made to the Sixth Schedule. Also, a committee will be formed under the Assam Assembly under Article 371B of the Constitution. Total funding to the area as part of the solution would amount to nearly Rs 2,000 crore, home ministry sources told The Telegraph.
"We are going to bombard the area with development projects, including 1,200km of roads as well as education and health projects," said a ministry of home affairs official.
UPDS chairman Longsodar Senar, general secretary Horensing Bey, joint secretary Kang Jang Terang, joint secretary Surjya Rongphar and the self-styled commander-in-chief of the UPDS Akar Teron were among the signatories, while the government was represented by the joint secretary in-charge of Northeast, Shambhu Singh.
UPDS joint secretary W. Mukram emerged from the North Block building flashing a copy of the settlement, happily posing for photographers.
"Everyone is happy," said Surjo Amsi of the All Tiwa Students Union.
While the district's population will enjoy more financial powers, the number of seats in the council will increase from 26 to 44, besides six nominated members against the earlier four.
However, the proposed increase in seats will be come into effect only in the 2016-17 elections. Elections held this year or early next year are likely to be only for the 26 seats, as the Election Commission will need time to figure out the modalities of holding polls for the enlarged council.
Gogoi seized the opportunity to take a dig at Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua saying that he should return to Assam if he wanted the welfare of the people. He also said the government was not concerned about Barua forming a new committee. ( )
Chidambaram said the UPDS had "realised the futility of violence" and in August 2002 sought a solution peacefully within the Constitution's framework.
"I urge all groups in the country to give up violence and come forward to find peaceful solutions to all their perceived problems," he said.
Jayanta Rongpi, CPI (M-L) leader and former Lok Sabha MP from Diphu said he was not confident the new arrangement would be able to resolve all issues.
"They should have taken all underground and overground organisations into confidence before thrashing out the final solution," he said.
Congress leader and executive member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council Ratan Engti ridiculed the accord, saying the new territorial council was nothing more than an arrangement under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. "It cannot fulfil the aspirations of the people who have been struggling for an autonomous state," he said.
Autonomous State District Committee president Choman Kro, on the other hand, welcomed today's development, saying people of the district nursed a lot of socio-political aspirations.
"The new arrangement is only a step towards that goal," he said.