MHA committee to implement Assam Accord

MHA committee to implement Assam Accord

Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) activists being detained during a protest against the BJP over the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 at Hengrabari, in Guwahati, on Sunday. PTI

The Centre has set up an eight-member committee to work out ways to 'safeguard indigenous Assamese' as promised in the Assam Accord of 1985 amid a fresh protest against its move to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. 

This comes days after the Union cabinet approved its decision to implement Clause VI of the accord that promised constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the indigenous Assamese. The accord was signed with the Centre following the six-year-long Assam agitation or the anti-foreigners movement.

To be headed by former IAS officer MP Bezbaruah, the committee will comprise former president of Asam Sahitya Sabha Dr Nagen Saikia, former editor Dhiren Bezbaruah, Assam attorney general Ramesh Borpatragohain, educationalist Dr Mukuna Rajbangshi, former president of Asam Sahitya Sabha Rongbong Terang, a joint secretary of MHA and a representative of AASU and another former IAS officer Subhash Das as members.

The committee will work out details on how to reserve seats for the indigenous people in the Legislative Assembly and local bodies, jobs and others. The committee has been asked to submit its report within six months.

Many in Assam, however, see this move as BJP's attempt to appease the indigenous voters, who are angry over the bill ahead of Lok Sabha elections. Northeast has 25 Lok Sabha seats of which 14 are in Assam.

The All Assam Students' Union (AASU), a signatory of the accord and several other organisations has called a Northeast bandh on Tuesday and launched a fresh agitation after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement in Silchar in South Assam on Friday that his government was gearing up to pass the bill. Modi said the BJP is committed to protecting those who suffered due to the Partition, a statement described by many as BJP's attempt to offer citizenships to Hindu 'illegal migrants.' 

The bill seeks to offer citizenship to non-muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who had migrated to India due to 'religious persecution,' after a stay of six years. The same is 12 years at present.

Many organisations in the Northeast are opposed to the bill saying this would make the 'large Hindu illegal migrants' already living in the state Indian citizens. "The bill will reduce us into a minority. This will also nullify Assam Accord, which promised to detect, delete and deport illegal migrants by updating the National Register of Citizens with March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date," AASU leader Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya said.

They are demanding that the foreigner issue should be solved through an update of the NRC as per the Assam Accord, irrespective of religion.