People attend an NRC hearing to enroll their names for the final NRC list, at an NRC Seva Kendra, in Guwahati. | ANI
People attending NRC hearing to enroll their names for the final NRC list, at an NRC Seva Kendra, in Guwahati. | ANI File photo
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New Delhi: A Narendra Modi government-appointed high-level panel has recommended 1951 as the cut-off date for defining “Assamese People” under a key clause of the Assam Accord.

The Assam NRC exercise, which was finalised last year amid much furore, had set 1971 as the cut-off for defining indigenous Assamese people. The final list had left out more than 19 lakh people.

If the report is accepted, the migrants who went to Assam between 1951 and 1971 would be recognised as Indian citizens. However, they won’t enjoy the safeguards that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord seeks to give the indigenous populace.

This clause looks at ensuring reservations for Assamese people in jobs, state legislative assembly and other local bodies, along with granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities of the state.

The revelation came Tuesday as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), one of the signatories to the accord, released the report that was prepared by the committee to look into the implementation of Clause 6 of the accord.

According to AASU and a member of the panel, they made public the report as the government is “just sitting idle”.

The panel had submitted the report on 25 February to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. It was to be presented to Home Minister Amit Shah after that. However, there is no clarity on the status of the report, said AASU.

The Modi government had reconstituted the panel last year after the previous committee members withdrew in protest of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

When violent protests broke out in the state against the passed Act, the government asked the panel to define ‘Assamese people’ under Clause 6. Its implementation has been a contentious issue that has raged on in the state since the accord was signed in 1985.


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‘People have a right to know’

On Tuesday, AASU members and Arunachal Pradesh Advocate General Nilay Dutta, who was a member of the panel, released the report independently, saying the people have a right to know.

“It has been more than five months since we submitted the report but there is simply no action from the government. People are asking us daily what happened to it. We have finally decided to release it as the people have the right to know,” said AASU chief advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya.

“We had submitted the report on February 25, but since then not a word (has come) from the Prime Minister or Home Minister Amit Shah, who had both announced during the anti-CAA movement to implement the recommendations as soon as the report is submitted,” he added.

AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi asked where the report is.

“People don’t know where it is and in what condition. Is it with the Chief Minister or sent to Delhi? It’s been 5 months since the report was submitted. It was leaked to certain people in the political spectrum who remarked that certain recommendations cannot be implemented,” he said.

Last year, AASU had described the push for Clause 6 as an effort to “mislead” people before passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill.


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What the report says on ‘Assamese’ definition

The reconstituted 14-member central panel was led by retired Gauhati High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma and had members from legal fraternity, scholars, journalists, retired civil servants and AASU office-bearers.

The report said the definition of ‘Assamese People’ should include indigenous tribes, other indigenous communities of Assam, all other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam, and indigenous Assamese and their descendants on or before January 1, 1951.

If this report is accepted, those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 would not be eligible for safeguards listed for “Assamese people” under Clause 6.

The panel’s other key recommendations include reservation of 80 to 100 per cent of Assam’s seats in Parliament for the “Assamese People”.

It also recommended 80 to 100 per cent of Group C and D-level posts in the state in government jobs. It also sought land rights to be confined to the “Assamese People”, putting restrictions on transfer of land any means to other persons other than “Assamese People”.

Assamese language shall continue to be the official language of the state with appropriate provisions for use of local languages in Barak Valley, Hill Districts and the BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Area Districts), said the report.

It sought mandatory provision of an Assamese language paper for recruitment in state government services with alternatives for Barak Valley districts, BTAD and Hills Districts.


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