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Assam Accord panel suggest 'Assamese' definition to MHA, submits report to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal

Last Updated : 25 February 2020, 16:14 IST
Last Updated : 25 February 2020, 16:14 IST
Last Updated : 25 February 2020, 16:14 IST
Last Updated : 25 February 2020, 16:14 IST

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Assam inched closer towards having the definition of who is an Assamese, a pre-requisite to implement Clause VI of Assam Accord of 1985, with the submission of an MHA-constituted committee's report here on Tuesday.

The Clause VI of the Assam Accord, which was signed to end the six-year-long Assam Agitation or the anti-foreigners movement promised that "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 indigenous Assamese people”.

But the process to implement it remained on the backburner in the past 35 years, one of the reasons for which was lack of a definition of who is an Assamese.

"We have suggested a definition of who should be considered as Assamese people after meeting people from various communities and sections and after going through 1,200 memorandums in the past six months. We have also made several recommendations on the kind of reservations required for the Assamese people in the Lok Sabha, state Assembly, government jobs, land rights and the ways to protect culture and identity of the Assamese people. We hope our report helps in the implementation of the Clause VI," chairman of the 13-member committee, justice (retired) Biplab Kumar Sarma told reporters soon after submitting the 150-odd pages report to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The report was submitted in the presence of the state cabinet members.

The 13-member panel was constituted by the MHA on July 15 last year, amid strong protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Three members of the panel belonging to the All Assam Students' Union, a signatory of the Assam Accord, however, skipped Tuesday's event to submit the report. Sources said the student body was upset as Union Home Minister Amit Shah did not directly accept it.

AASU and several other organisations have been demanding that implementation of the Clause VI of Assam Accord is a must to protect the identity of the indigenous Assamese people against the "large number of Bangladeshi immigrants" living in the state.

Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the report in sealed cover would be submitted to the MHA soon. "Since the contents of the report is not known, we can't make a comment about it now. The report will be submitted to the Centre for its views and if the Centre wants, Assam government will give its opinion too," he said.

When asked about acceptance of the definition of Assamese people, Sarma said, "The definition has to be accepted by Assam Assembly. We will try to have a consensus on it. Even if we can't reach a consensus, we will try to have a detail discussion in the Assembly. But we will try to respect the time frame suggested by the committee for implementation," he said.

Although the contents of the report were not disclosed, there are reports that the committee recommended that the safeguards should be provided to those who lived in Assam before 1951.

The BJP-led government have emphasised on its commitment to implement Clause VI in order to counter the anger and criticism it faced over the CAA. It said Clause VI would protect identity of the indigenous Assamese against those who would get citizenship through the CAA.

The AASU and some other organisations, however, slammed the government saying Clause VI was promised in 1985 for accepting the migrants between 1951 to March 24, 1971, only and not for those till 2014 as is being planned through the CAA.

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Published 25 February 2020, 16:14 IST

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