Panel on ‘constitutional safeguards’ to Assamese submits report to CM

Updated on Feb 25, 2020 04:09 PM IST

During his visit to Assam earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured that the Centre won’t delay implementation of the committee’s recommendations.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.(PTI)
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.(PTI)
Hindustan Times, Guwahati | By

The high-level committee on Clause 6 of Assam Accord formed by Union home ministry submitted its recommendations to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal here on Tuesday.

Chairman of the 13-member committee Justice (Retd) Biplab Kumar Sarma handed over the 170-page report in a sealed envelope to Sonowal—a fortnight after completing it and 10 days after its tenure ended.

“We received nearly 1200 recommendations and suggestions from all over Assam. After going through all of them, the members of the committee have unanimously formulated this report,” Justice Sarma said after submitting the report.

Significantly, none of the three All Assam Students Union (AASU) members in the committee were present at the event. They were reportedly upset that the recommendations were not handed directly to Union home ministry.

While speculations on the contents of the report — like 1951 as the cut-off date to determine who an Assamese is (those who themselves or their ancestors were living in the state in that year) or introduction of inner line permit (ILP)— are doing the rounds, the committee members remained tight-lipped on it.

An upper house in the Assam assembly and reservation of around 67% of seats in the elected bodies to Assamese people (as defined in the committee’s report) are stated to be some other recommendations.

“We have made some important recommendations in our report. Now the ball is in the Centre’s court,” senior journalist and a member of the committee Wasbir Hussain told reporters.

During his visit to Assam earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured that the Centre won’t delay implementation of the committee’s recommendations.

“Since the report is in a sealed envelope, only the Centre would be able to see its contents. The Chief Minister accepted it on the Union Home Minister’s behalf. It is for the Centre to examine the report and if required Assam government would give its suggestions on it,” senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

The Assam Accord was a tripartite agreement signed in 1985 between the Centre, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) that brought the six-year-long anti-foreigner movement in the state to an end.

Clause 6 of the accord states, “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.

Implementation of Clause 6 remained in the backburner for over three decades till the BJP-government in Centre formed a committee in January last year asking it to suggest recommendations.

But due to widespread opposition in Assam to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2016, which sought to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Assam, all members of the committee resigned.

A new committee with 13-members was constituted in July 15 last year after Narendra Modi returned to power at the Centre. It was given a month’s extension after its six-month tenure expired last month.

“The Centre constituted the committee on Clause 6 of Assam Accord to provide constitutional safeguards to Assamese people. Therefore, the Centre should have accepted the report of the committee directly. We won’t be present at Tuesday’s event,” AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya had said on Monday.

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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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