The 14-member high-level committee on implementation of Clause 6 of Assam Accord has stated in its report that its recommendations should be implemented within two years from February this year, when it was submitted, Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Wednesday.
Sarma also said that the committee, constituted by Union Home Ministry, cannot by itself determine the definition of “Assamese people”, and that the recommendation has to be accepted by the Assembly before it is implemented.
The senior minister criticised the independent release of the report by four committee members of the panel on Tuesday. The report was leaked to the media by three senior leaders of All Assam Students’ Union and Nilay Dutta, a renowned advocate and Advocate General of Arunachal Pradesh.
“The committee has given two years for implementation of its recommendations. They have clearly written it in the report…. Disclosing the report has only increased complications in the matter,” Sarma told reporters on Wednesday.
He said the state government is committed to implement provisions of Clause 6 of the Accord, which states, “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.”
But since the Accord had not defined “Assamese people”, the committee sought to determine a definition before recommending reservations. It recommended that ‘Assamese people’ should be determined by taking 1951 as a cut-off year.
Sarma, a key BJP leader in the Northeast, said the report is silent on how to determine whether a person was residing in Assam before 1951. “Will there be a new NRC with 1951 cut-off — or how will we determine [whether a person has been in Assam] prior to 1951? The committee is silent on that,” he said. “Will we check an NRC to determine that, or check land documents? Many indigenous persons may not have land documents prior to 1951.”
He said that the right to define “Assamese people” rests with the state Assembly. “The Centre has nothing much to do in the matter until the Assembly ratifies the definition. When the Assembly ratifies the definition after discussions then the Centre will have a role to play,” he said.
Asked when the Assembly is expected to take up the report, Sarma said, “We are considering whether at the fag end of our term we are competent to determine a definition for Assamese people. It will be better if a new Assam assembly decides a definition – we just have six more months.”
But, he said, it will come up for discussion in the Assembly. “If the Assembly thinks that even at the fag end of our term we should ratify a definition…then we are not opposing it,” he said.
Calling disclosure of the report a “breach of trust”, state BJP president Ranjeet Dass told The Indian Express: “There is a time-frame and without letting that get exhausted, they released the report. It seems it was released with a mala fide intention. We are going to implement Clause 6; there is no question about it. What is being done is being done by us. Has any government before us done anything regarding Clause 6 implementation?”
Among other points, the report recommended several reservations for “Assamese people”, such as 80 to 100 per cent of the state’s seats in Parliament; and the same proportion in the Assembly and local bodies (inclusive of preexisting reservations).
Sarma argued that the Centre’s institution of the delimitation commission is already a step towards implementation of Clause 6 committee’s report. When asked to explain it, Sarma said that delimitation was required if 80-100 per cent seats were to be reserved for “Assamese people” by giving example of two Assembly constituencies – Baghbar and Jania – which are dominated by Muslims of Bengali-descent.
The Indian Express had earlier reported that the AASU leadership has questioned why the government is silent on the report even after five months of submission.