The Telegraph
Wednesday , October 3 , 2012
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Decks cleared for DHD pact

- Factions hope to seal deal soon

New Delhi, Oct. 2: The decks have been cleared for the signing of a settlement with the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) factions on Friday, unless “pitripaksh casts a shadow” on official business.

Contented with the steps the Centre is ready to take, more than 70 representatives off the two DHD groups will reach New Delhi tomorrow. Dilip Nunisa, chief of one of the factions, is already in the capital hoping that the signing of the memorandum of settlement — which has been deferred twice since July — is not put off once again.

“The pitripaksh problem was discussed (with us by the government). We do not have any problem in signing during this period,” Nunisa told The Telegraph. Pitripaksh is the ongoing fortnight-long shraddha period from September 30 in the Hindu calendar, which is considered inauspicious and in which politicians seem to have a deep belief.

Officials are unsure if the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) will take up the issue on Thursday. Last week, no cabinet meeting was held. If the matter is included in the CCPA agenda by tomorrow evening, North Block will intimate chief minister Tarun Gogoi to attend the signing ceremony, if it is scheduled for Friday.

“The signing could be done anytime between October 5 and October 10,” a government official said, leaving a large time window open till the ceremony. He, however, assured that the MoS would be signed soon. Pitripaksh ends on October 15.

Uncertainty over the schedule aside, all work by the government has been concluded. Several ministries, including defence and finance, whose schemes would be implemented as part of the settlement, have given their nod to the draft MoS. Both factions have already signed the draft agreement — Dilip Nunisa on July 13 this year and Jewel Gorlosa in 2011. “The Cabinet meeting is only a formality actually,” a senior official involved in negotiations with the DHD factions said.

Nunisa hoped that the Centre would not call off the ceremony as it had done earlier. The MoS was to be signed on July 30 but it was deferred after violence broke out in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD). The signing was then scheduled for September 28, but the Centre cancelled the date again.

What is certain, however, is that with the signing of this settlement, one more militant group of the Northeast will dissolve itself. It will be a joint celebration of the Dimasa group’s two factions in Haflong.

The DHD will be the second group within a year — after the Karbi group United People’s Democratic Solidarity that will be dissolved. The UPDS signed the MoS in November 2011.

“DHD will be dissolved. Our cadres will be rehabilitated in the army or police depending on fitness and their willingness and all cases except those concerning heinous crimes, will be withdrawn,” Nunisa said on Tuesday.

The dissolution will, however, be accompanied by sops that include a Rs 200-crore package for infrastructure development in the autonomous area.

With this, the Centre hopes to largely get rid of militancy in Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts, which are strategic to their location. These districts, like the BTAD, have a wide network of national and state highways.

Over the past two years, the talks have been carried out by former intelligence bureau chief and current interlocutor P.C. Haldar.

The Centre has agreed to change the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council to Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council. “The name change will be done along with transfer of maximum number of departments under the council,” a DHD source said. Its area will be divided into three administrative units, a move that has been cleared by the Assam Assembly.

The three “units” if turned into districts — they could also be sub-divisions — will be Dima Hasao with headquarters at Maibang, Haflong, and Umrangsu with headquarters at Khorongma, sources said.

The Centre has also agreed to have a small airstrip or helipad at Haflong.

An increased size of the council has made the former militants happy, as they will have representation with 36 elected members and four members nominated by the governor.

As identity is a major parameter while resolving any issue in the Northeast, little gestures have been made by North Block to recognise Dimasa or Cachari identity. The council will have a rest house, Dimasa Bhawan, in New Delhi. The Centre will finance the setting up of a cultural and research centre in Dima Hasao. The centre will be not only for Dimasas but for all tribes in the area.

Nunisa said while their fight for a separate state, Dimasaland, had to be compromised, the rights and aspirations of Dimasa villages outside the Sixth Schedule areas would be taken care of.

“There will be another council, Dimasa-Cachari Council, for socio-economic development of the Burmans (as termed in Barak Valley) or Hojais (as termed in Brahmaputra valley) and Cacharis,” said Nunisa. That appears to be an olive branch for Nunisa whose demand to include over 90 villages, some of them remote from the existing autonomous district, was not accepted by Assam and Delhi.