NEW DELHI: In a first for the state, Arunachal Pradesh has decided to offer an opportunity to insurgents to lay down arms,surrender and be rehabilitated. This is the first time the state government has offered a rehabilitation package to the youth who had joined various separatist groups in the border state.

A wave of hope is sweeping through insurgency-affected districts in Arunachal Pradesh. Chief Minister Kalikho Pul said he would prioritise the implementation of a surrender and rehabilitation policy (SRP) for former militants while interacting with the Surrendered Underground Welfare Association of Arunachal Pradesh (SUWAAP) members.

Until now, none of the successive governments in Arunachal Pradesh had communicated with the surrendered youths or endeavoured to address the question of their livelihood. Pul’s decision is expected to alter the fate of hundreds of surrendered youths currently languishing in various parts of the five insurgency-affected districts of Tirap, Changlang, Longding, Namsai and Lohit. Previous governments had evaded the subject of an SRP and sought to justify their stand with the assumption that since the surrendered cadres belonged to Naga outfits, they did not qualify for rehabilitation packages in Arunachal Pradesh.

Speaking to The Citizen, the Editor of Arunachal Times Rina Tongam said, “ This is a a very good move. Many of the young boys opt to join organizations like NSCN, and often want to leave everything behind and lead a regular life. However it becomes difficult for them because of the social ostracisation. This effort will certainly lift their morale and provide them an opportunity to move ahead in life with a positive attitude”.

Arunachal Pradesh is the only state in the Northeast region which, despite three of its districts being under the ambit of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, does not have a surrender and rehabilitation policy to ascertain the surrendered youths a dignified start to a second innings

Pointing towards the current situation of the state Nava Thakuria, President of the North Eastern Journalist Association and a veteran in covering the state, said, “ This move will make a difference. Youth many a time due to a belief decides to join outfits and then regret at a later stage. However so far they had no option to come back to the regular life. With this policy there is a lot of hope, and a positive environment has been created”.