Why Rajiv Gandhi’s accord stands in discord for Govt

Why Rajiv Gandhi’s accord stands in discord for Govt

The accord, signed on the night of August 14, 1985, after the 'anti-foreigner movement' from 1979 to 1985, promised to detect, delete (from electoral rolls) and deport all those who have settled in Assam after March 24, 1971.

The accord which anti-foreigner agitators, in Assam, signed with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi 35 years ago has become the basis of an ongoing protest against Narendra Modi government's Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.

The accord, signed on the night of August 14, 1985, after the 'anti-foreigner movement' from 1979 to 1985, promised to detect, delete (from electoral rolls) and deport all those who have settled in Assam after March 24, 1971.

The six-year-long agitation— which saw deaths of 866 agitators and hundreds of suspected ‘illegal migrants’ from neighbouring Bangladesh— came to end after the promise was made to the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad.

Detection of post-1971 migrants, the deportation of foreigners and giving constitutional, legal and administrative safeguards to indigenous Assamese are some of the measures in the clauses of the Assam Accord.

In the next 30 years, the government— be it at the Centre or in Assam— did nothing significant to implement the Accord’s vital clauses, despite protests and demands for the same by Aasu.

A Supreme Court order in 2015, however, forced the government to speed up the work to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) with March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date, as agreed in the Accord.

Over 19.06 Lakh people were left out of the final list of the updated NRC released on August this year.

But the anti-foreigner organisations were unhappy, saying the NRC was not error-free.

Just when they were planning to move the Supreme Court, for the review of the NRC exercise, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) came as a shocker.

Aasu general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said, "Modi government is trying to nullify the Assam Accord by passing the CAB. We signed the Accord as it promised to detect and deport all post-1971 migrants; be it Hindu, Muslim or Christian. But, Modi government wants to give citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Parsis, who have migrated till December 2014. This violates the Assam Accord. We will not accept a signal foreigner who has migrated after March 24, 1971, irrespective of their religion.”

Addressing a large crowd, which had gathered here on Friday, to oppose the CAB, Gogoi said, "our fight is not against any Bengali Hindu, Muslim or any other community. Our fight is against all post-1971 migrants.”

AASU wants an error-free NRC to weed out foreigners from Assam.

AASU advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya said, “we want full implementation of Assam Accord through the reservation of seats in Parliament, state Assembly, jobs and land rights for the indigenous Assamese, which was promised in the Clause VI of Assam Accord with 1951 as a cut-off. Otherwise, the Assamese community will become minorities against the large number of migrants who settled between 1951 and 1971. In the Assam Accord, we agreed to accept the migrants between 1951 and 1971 as Indian citizens but the Assamese people need safeguards to protect our ethnic identity, language and culture.”

BJP leader and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, however, said that they are not committed to the Assam Accord as they did not sign it.

“We want a Pan-India NRC with the same cut-off date. We cannot have a separate cut-off for Assam. This will create a lot of confusion and difficulty in detection of foreigners. At the same time, it is our responsibility to give citizenship to the Hindus and other minority communities who have fled Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan due to religious persecution and have taken shelter in India,” sarma recently said.

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