Thirty-two years after it signed the Assam Accord with the Centre and the Assam government in 1985, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) is still upset that major issues mentioned remain unresolved. So, when the AASU met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh along with Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal — a former AASU president — in Delhi Wednesday, their memorandum of demands ran into 90 points.
“Our focus has been on two major issues, detecting and deporting Bangladeshi infiltrators, and providing constitutional safeguards to indigenous communities of the state, both as enshrined in the Assam Accord,” said AASU general secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi. “One of the most important decisions taken Wednesday was to constitute special task forces at the state and district levels to identify illegal migrants.”
While describing the talks as “positive” and “encouraging”, Gogoi said the AASU would oppose any move by the Centre to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill that proposes to grant citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh. “The Constitution of India, as also the Assam Accord, does not differentiate among illegal migrants and foreigners on the basis of religion. We made it clear before the home minister that we will stiffly oppose any such move,” Gogoi said.
The AASU leader said Rajnath assured them the Centre would not do anything that would “dilute” the accord. “That is a clear commitment and assurance from the home minister, and we hope he will keep it,” Gogoi said. It was the first tripartite discussion on the Assam Accord since May 2005.
The AASU says that since 1985, when the Assam Accord was signed, nothing concrete has been done by the Centre for providing constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the indigenous communities of Assam — this is clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
A statement issued by the Assam government said Rajnath has promised that a committee with representatives from the Centre, the state government and AASU would be formed to ensure time-bound implementation of all clauses of the Accord.
“We are happy that the home minister has decided to set up a nine-member committee to prepare a roadmap for Clause 6. He assured us that the Centre would go for a constitutional amendment if required,” the AASU general secretary said. Gogoi said the home minister also agreed to a demand for upgrading the Bangladesh border fence to bring it at par with the Pakistan fence.
While the AASU and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) have been expressing concern over the growing clout of illegal migrants and people of that descent in the state’s political arena, the BJP has been saying that 11 Assam districts have already “gone into the grip” of such people.
The statement by the Assam government, meanwhile, said the Union home minister has assured the AASU that the Centre was committed to a flawless exercise for updating the National Register of Citizens and providing constitutional and economic safeguards to the indigenous people.
“All issues raised by AASU will be discussed in detail and implemented in a time-bound manner. We are also mulling the option for second line of defence along the border for strengthening border security and checking infiltration. Besides, erection of fencing along Indo-Bangla border has already begun,” the government statement quoted Singh as saying.
“We have started a meaningful and good beginning to the implementation of Assam Accord,” Chief Minister Sonowal said. “Wednesday’s talks have ended on a positive note, as we have discussed in detail clause-wise, time-bound implementation of the accord for providing constitutional and economic safeguards to the people of Assam.”