In wake of Citizenship Bill, Assam Accord gets Cabinet approval
After Assam agitation of 1979-1985, Assam Accord was signed on August 15, 1985. However, even almost 35 years after the Accord was signed, it has been felt that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord has not been fully implemented.
The Union Cabinet has given its nod for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord that provides for ‘appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people’. The Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi also approved the setting up of a High Level Committee to implement the Clause’s several long-standing demands of Bodo Tribe as per the measures envisaged in the Memorandum of Settlement, 2003.
This comes a week before the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Parliament. Proposed in Lok Sabha in 2016, the Bill is expected make considerable changes to the Citizenship Act, 1955 as it will make the undocumented or illegal migrants eligible for Indian citizenship.
After Assam agitation of 1979-1985, Assam Accord was signed on August 15, 1985. However, even almost 35 years after the Accord was signed, it has been felt that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord has not been fully implemented. The Cabinet, therefore, approved the setting up of a High Level Committee to suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as envisaged in the Clause 6 of the Accord.
The Committee is expected to examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement the Clause. It is also expected to hold discussions with all stakeholders and assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in Assam Legislative Assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.
“Measures for protecting Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam, quantum of reservation in employment under Government of Assam for the indigenous people and other measures to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people are expected to be assessed by the Committee.”
Considering the felt need for implementation of Clause 6 of the Accord, the setting up of the Committee is seen to pave the way for the implementation of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit and help fulfil long-standing expectations of the Assamese people.
The Composition and terms of reference of the Committee will be issued separately by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Cabinet also approved a number of measures to fulfil the outstanding issues related to the Bodo community. The Bodo Accord was signed in 2003 which resulted in the establishment of a Bodoland Territorial Council under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India. However, there have been representations from different organisations of Bodos to fulfil various outstanding demands including.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal termed the decisions as historic. He stated in a press statement, “A New Year’s gift to the people of the state from the central government. The decision will go a long way in securing the future of all indigenous communities,” he said.
However, as per AASU (All Assam Students Union), which led the six-year long movement against illegal migrants in 1979-85 period, “the announcement was made to mislead people”.
Samujjal Bhattacharya, Advisor to AASU stated that the committee was “not a new thing”, and the decisions were announced to cover up the fact that passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 would violate the Assam Accord”.
The Cabinet also approved the establishment of a Bodo Musuem-cum-language and cultural study center, modernisation of existing All India Radio Station and Doordarshan Kendra at Kokrajhar and naming a Superfast Train passing through BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Area Districts) as Aronai Express. Relevant Ministries are expected to take required actions to implement these decisions.
The State Government will also take necessary measures related to appropriate land policy and land laws, besides setting up of Institutions for Research and Documentation of Customs, Traditions and Languages of indigenous communities.