All the 568 cadres of the United Peoples Democratic Solidarity, a Karbi tribal militant group, laid down arms at a function held at Diphu in Karbi Anglong district in the presence of Assam's Director General of Police Shankar Baruah and Lieutenant General Shakti Gurung on Wednesday morning.
The en masse surrender of weapons by the UPDS was held in the wake of a memorandum of settlement signed by the outfit with the government on November 25 as the culmination of a prolonged peace process that started in 2002.
The surrender was led by UPDS chairman and commander-in-chief Longsidar Senar.
The UPDS militants surrendered 177 assorted weapons including AK 47 assault rifles, rocket launcher, M-16 rifles, SLRs, G-3 & G-4 guns, carbines and pistols. They also deposited 18,740 rounds of assorted ammunition and 322 magzines. They deposited the flag of the outfit and took up the Indian tricolour.
With the surrender of weapons, the UPDS has been disbanded and its leaders and cadres have vowed to join the mainstream. They have vowed to work for peace and development of Karbi Anglong hill district in the coming days.
According to UPDS general secretary Haren Sing Bey, they will soon form a political party and leaders would contest the forthcoming polls to Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council as independent candidates supported by Peoples' Alliance for Peace Accord, a platform of non-Congress political parties in Karbi Anglong.
The UPDS had signed a MoS with the Centre on November 25, laying the foundation for a political overhaul in the hill district, including the creation of a more potent Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council to replace the present Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and a comprehensive administrative reorganisation that includes creation of four new districts within the present hill district.
The UPDS was formed in March 1999 with the merger of two militant outfits in Karbi Anglong district -- Karbi National Volunteers and Karbi People's Front. Karbi Anglong is one of Assam's two hill districts, and has its own local government -- Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council -- under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
The UPDS initially demanded a separate state for the Karbi tribe, comprising the existing district and adjoining areas in other districts that are, or once were, inhabited by the Karbi tribe people.
The MoS was signed in New Delhi in the presence of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, interlocutor P C Haldar and Home Secretary RK Singh, according to a communique issued by the Assam government.
As per the MoS, the UPDS shall dissolve itself as an organisation within a reasonable time (six months) to pave the way for the implementation of other clauses in the peace agreement.
A special economic package of Rs 350 crore (Rs 70 crore per annum) over and above the allotted fund over the next five years will be provided to the council that rules Karbi Anglong hill district in Assam as per the MoS.