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Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma meet Amit Shah, discuss NRC, Clause 6 report

Last week, the Centre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply that the committee's report is “under examination of the state government”, sparking sharp criticism in Assam against the state government from different quarters.

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati | September 21, 2020 9:29:41 am
(L-R) Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Home Minister Amit Shah and state finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in Guwahati in 2019 (Express Photo by Dasarath Deka)

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday met Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi and discussed the status of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, among other issues.

After the meeting, Sarma told reporters that Shah has directed Sonowal to get the recommendations of a high-level committee on Clause 6 implementation — submitted in February — examined by legal experts before sending it to the Centre. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had constituted the 14-member committee, headed by Justice (retd) Biplab Kumar Sarma, to institute safeguards in the legislation.

Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam 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.”

With the state government is silent on the report, four committee members — three senior leaders of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Nilay Dutta, a renowned advocate and Advocate General of Arunachal Pradesh — independently leaked it to the press last month. The report recommended that ‘Assamese people’ should be determined by taking 1951 as a cut-off year.

Last week, the Centre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply that the committee’s report is “under examination of the state government”, sparking sharp criticism in Assam against the state government from different quarters.

On the NRC, Sarma said that it was discussed in the meeting that both the Centre and the State will uphold their demand in the next hearing of the Supreme Court that a re-verification — of 20% included names in the NRC in border districts of Assam and 10% elsewhere — is required.

In July last year, the Assam government and the Centre petitioned the SC for such a re-verification exercise but the apex court had dismissed the plea after the then NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela had submitted that re-verification of 27% names was already done. The NRC had excluded 19 lakh-odd applicants.

The NRC process has stalled as of now since the rejection orders to those excluded — which will allow them to appeal in Foreigners’ Tribunals — are yet to be issued. Officials have cited the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason for the delay.

Moreover, Sarma added that it was decided in the meeting that within a month, important steps will be taken towards implementation of various provisions of an accord signed between the Centre, Assam government and Bodo groups earlier this year.

An official statement from Sonowal’s office regarding the meeting said, “Union Home Minister Shah was very positive as he assured the Chief Minister that all the outstanding issues will be dealt with positively. Chief Minister Sonowal also thanked the Union Home Minister for positively deliberating on all the problems that the state has been facing as he termed the discussion being very encouraging and fruitful.”

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