'Reservation must to protect indigenous Assamese'

'Reservation must to protect indigenous Assamese'

People wait to check their names on the draft list at the National Register of Citizens (NRC) centre at a village in Nagaon district (Reuters Photo)

A committee constituted by the Centre to implement Assam Accord of 1985 has stressed on the reservation of Parliament seats, jobs of the central government and PSUs and rights over land for the "indigenous Assamese" only to protect them from the identity crisis against the migrants.

The 13-member committee headed by retired justice Biplab Kumar Sarma met union minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on Wednesday evening in which most members stressed that working out reservation should be one of the terms of reference of the committee. They said that reservation should be based on 1951 as the cut-off date as the NRC being updated in Assam would include a large number of migrants, who had settled in the state between 1951 to March 24, 1971.

"Reservation is a must to protect the identity of the indigenous communities against such a large number of the migrant population. A committee headed by former home secretary G K Pillai had recommended for reservation of seats in the state Assembly and other elected bodies but we require reservation of the Parliament seats and jobs in the central government departments and PSUs. At the same time rights over land must also be reserved for the indigenous Assamese people," advisor of All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and a member of the committee, Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya told reporters after the meeting.

The Clause 6 of Assam Accord signed in 1985 following the six-year-long anti-foreigners movement or Assam Agitation promised Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the indigenous Assamese. AASU was one of the signatories of the accord.

The home ministry had set up the committee recently to implement Clause 6, a demand by organisations representing indigenous communities. However, the definition of who is an indigenous Assamese is yet to be finalised. Many demands that the land rights and the reservations should not be applicable to those who will make it to the NRC but not pre-1971 residents.

"The committee will meet various stakeholders and work out the details on how the Clause 6 can be implemented," said Satyendra Garg, joint secretary (Northeast) in the home ministry. Garg is the member secretary of the committee.