The recommendations by a high-level panel on implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord are “under examination of the state government”, the Centre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Wednesday, sparking sharp criticism in Assam against the Sarbananda Sonowal administration for its delay in clearing it.
Clause 6 of the 1985 accord says: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.
To institute these “safeguards”, a 14-member committee headed by Justice (retd) Biplab Kumar Sarma was constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The committee submitted its report to the Assam government in February.
With the government silent on the report, four committee members—three senior leaders of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Arunachal Pradesh Advocate-General Nilay Dutta—independently revealed its contents to the press last month. The report recommended that the question of who is an Assamese person should be resolved by considering 1951 as a cut-off year.
Dutta tweeted Wednesday: “The clause 6 committee report remains with the Govt of Assam for consideration. Was it ever sent to the Home Ministry GOI? The answer in Rajya Sabha is silent on this aspect. @sarbanandsonwal I am shocked and hurt. At least today, talk to Assam from your heart.”
AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi, also a member of the committee, told The Indian Express: “It proves that they are not committed to implement the recommendations of the committee’s report. It seems like the promise to implement the recommendations was a political game.”
State Congress president and MP Ripun Bora said: “They had said that they will implement the recommendations of the committee’s report—but now they are not doing anything. What is there for the state government to examine?”
Congress spokesperson Rhituporna Konwar told The Indian Express, “It proves that the BJP has no commitment towards the people of Assam. They played with the sentiments of people of Assam. They had just promised it at that time to calm down the anger in Assam against the CAA — and now they have forgotten all about it. The Chief Minister should clarify immediately what is going on with the report — whether it has been submitted to the Centre or not?”
Upamanyu Hazarika, a senior advocate who is the convenor of the Prabajan Virodhi Manch, said, “The report is submitted way back in February of this year and it is yet to reach the central Government. This clearly demonstrates that there was never any intention or desire to fulfil not only the electoral promises and Clause 6 of the Assam Accord for protection of indigenous people, it was merely a ploy to divert and distract attention.”
Sonowal told local reporters Wednesday: “The government will take steps to implement Assam Accord Clause 6 as per the recommendations of the committee.”
Last month, senior Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had told the press that the right to define ‘Assamese people’ rests with the Assam Assembly. “The Centre has nothing much to do in the matter till the Assam Assembly ratifies the definition,” he had said.
As protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act spiralled across Assam since December last year, the Sarbananda Sonowal-led state government promised a speedy implementation of Clause 6 as an antidote to the agitation and a measure to protect the interests of the “indigenous” people of Assam.
The influential bodies All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), which were instrumental in leading the agitation against the CAA in Assam, came together recently to back a new political outfit called the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP).
In a statement, the AJP said that the “lies” spread by the BJP-led state government has been proven by this information in the Rajya Sabha. The party called it as “another example” of the “betrayal” by the state government. It added that the promise to implement Clause 6 was a political ploy when the anti-CAA protests were raging on in Assam.
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