Assam: Assamese to be compulsory in all schools

Assam governement cabinet meeting in Guwahati on Saturday. (Photo credit: Assam government)

From making Assamese a compulsory subject till Class X in schools, setting up three new autonomous councils, protecting land and reserving seats in educational institutions, the BJP-led Assam government announced several steps on Saturday, in what appeared to be damage control measures amid the protests by the state's indigenous communities against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Those opposing the amendment have expressed fear that it would reduce them into minorities and endanger their language, culture and rights over land by giving citizenship to "a large number of" post-1971 Hindu Bengali migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The state cabinet decided that all schools, be it private or government including the Kendriya Vidayalayas must introduce Assamese as a compulsory subject, barring those in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts, Barak Valley in South Assam and areas under the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and Dima Hasao Autonomous Council. These areas have a majority of people speaking Bodo, Bengali, Karbi and Dimasa languages respectively.

Cabinet minister and BJP's strategist in the Northeast, Himanta Biswa Sarma said the cabinet meeting decided to request the Centre to amend Article 345 of the Constitution to ensure that Assamese remains the state language forever.

The cabinet also decided to set up three new autonomous councils for Koch Rajbongshi, Moran and Mottock communities while steps would be taken to accord constitutional status to the six autonomous development councils earlier constituted for Missing, Rabha, Thengal Kochari, Sonowal Kochari, Deori and Tiwa communities. "This will allow the six councils to get funding directly from the Centre, apart from the state government. The new autonomous council is aimed at protecting the political, cultural and economic security of the three communities," Sarma said.

The state Assembly will enact two laws in the next session in February to restrict the indigenous communities from selling land to the non-indigenous communities and make encroachment of land belonging to heritage sites including xatras (Vaishnavite monasteries) a criminal offence. 

The cabinet also decided to offer Rs 125 crore each for the welfare of the Moran, Motock, Chutia and Ahom communities. 

The government also decided to reserve seats in colleges (including medical, engineering, veterinary, agriculture, fishery colleges) for the tea garden community and hike daily wage of those working in tea gardens under Assam Tea Corporation Limited by Rs 30.

AGP demands seat reservation: 

AGP, which has three ministers in the Cabinet demanded 100% and 90% reservation for the candidates belonging to the indigenous communities for all 14 Lok Sabha seats and 126-member Assembly respectively. The party, which drew much flak for supporting the CAA also demanded that the long demand for ST status by six more communities, Ahom, Moran, Motock, Chutia, Koch Rajbongshi and tea tribes be fulfilled without further delay.

 

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