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Anushka Gupta asked: How far has ‘Unified Command’ structure been successful in tackling insurgency in Assam?

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  • D Padma Kumar Pillay replies: The Unified Command in Assam was created on 24 January 1997, six years after the government of India launched Operation Rhino against the activities of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). ULFA’s demands included an independent ’sovereign, socialist Assam'.

    The Unified Command was to enable synergy of operations and for facilitation of coordination between the various security agencies deployed in the state for counter-insurgency operations. It did not replace or duplicate any functions of the state government or administrative machinery. It was for purely operational needs.

    Over the last six years, several insurgent outfits have laid down arms and joined the mainstream in Assam. There have been significant agreements on long-outstanding issues like Karbi Anglong Agreement, Bru Refugee Rehabilitation Agreement and Bodo Peace Accord. As of date, only the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) remain active in Assam.  Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced on 23 May 2023 that by November 2023, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which empowers security forces to conduct operations and which has been in force in the whole of Assam since 1990, will be lifted from the state.

    Given the above developments, it can be safely concluded that the Unified Command structure has helped in bringing order and stability in the region. The entire credit, though, cannot be given to that structure alone as there are several other factors that have helped in bringing normalcy and reducing the various insurgent groups operating in the state. These include steps relating to administrative autonomy, and economic packages for rehabilitation and development, among others. 

    Posted on May 25, 2023

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.