Clause 6 of Assam Accord will be enforced, says govt

The assurance came a day after All Assam Students Union (AASU) made public a high-level committee’s confidential report on the implementation of the accord.

The Assam government on Wednesday reiterated it is committed to the implementation of the 1985 Assam Accord’s Clause 6, which pledges safeguards for the preservation and promotion of Assamese identity and heritage.

The assurance came a day after All Assam Students Union (AASU) made public a high-level committee’s confidential report on the implementation of the accord. The report seeks reservation for Assamese in parliament, state assembly, local bodies, and regulation of entry of people from other states into Assam. AASU, whose three members were part of the committee, said they were forced to release the report because of the government’s inaction on it.

“We have resolved to implement Clause 6 and are on track. By releasing the report, AASU has created complications. The committee’s report will be tabled in assembly at a future date and it will define and ratify definition of the Assamese people,” said Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. “It is only after the assembly passes a resolution, the matter will go to the Centre and implementation process of Clause 6 will begin.”

AASU’s chief advisor, Samujjal Bhattacharya, on Tuesday said the report was submitted over five months back, and with the government remaining quiet on its contents and implementation, the group decided to make it public . “There is no clarity as well on whether the Assam government has handed it over to the Centre yet.”

Sarma referred to AASU’s unhappiness over the inaction and pointed out that the committee’s report says the recommendations are to be implemented within two years after careful scrutiny by a panel headed by a retired Supreme Court judge as it involves constitutional provisions.

“Since our government is at the end of our tenure and the assembly elections are due in a few months, it might be better if the new elected assembly takes up the issue of ratifying definition of Assamese people.”

The tripartite accord involving AASU, the state government and the Centre was signed in 1985 after a six-year agitation against illegal immigrants.

The justice (Retd) Biplab Kumar Sarma-led 13-member committee submitted the report to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in February. None of the three AASU members in the committee were present when the report was submitted. AASU was upset that the report was not handed over directly to Union home ministry.

The report proposes January 1951 as the cut-off date for any Indian citizen residing in Assam to be defined as an Assamese for the purpose of implementing Clause 6. The report also seeks quotas in government jobs, talks about issues related to land and land rights, linguistic, cultural and social rights, and protection of the state’s resources and biodiversity.

Clarity on who can be called an Assamese was one of the committee’s main tasks as the accord did not clearly define this.

The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in December triggered protests in Assam amid concerns that it could encourage a fresh wave of infiltration from Bangladesh and threaten the livelihoods of indigenous people. CAA seeks to fast-track citizenship to non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The protests against the law in Assam came amidst fears that it could dilute the 1985 accord, under which the government agreed to identify and deport all refugees and migrants who have entered the northeastern state after March 25, 1971. The CAA extends the deadline until December 31, 2014.

Implementation of Clause 6 remained on the backburner for over three decades till the Centre formed a panel in January last year to suggest how to do it. All members of the panel resigned in protest against the CAA.

A new 13-member committee was constituted in July last year. It was given a month’s extension after its six-month tenure expired in January.

“The committee’s report was submitted towards the end of February and the lockdown prompted by COVID-19 pandemic started the next month. AASU should realise that though Clause 6 is an issue, but COVID is a larger issue and priorities of the government changed because of that,” said Noni Gopal Mahanta, professor of political science at Gauhati University.

Source: Hindustan Times


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