The centre will ask the Assam government to engage legal and constitutional experts to examine the provisions of a report submitted by a Home Ministry panel on implementation of the Assam Accord’s Clause 6. The decision was taken after a meeting on Sunday between Home minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal at Mr Shah’s house in Delhi. Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was also present in the meeting.
“The Clause 6 recommendations stated it will require constitutional and legal changes, so the Home Minister wants that it should be examined by legal experts. We have decided that the state government will raise again in the Supreme Court the issue of 20 per cent sample re-verification of names included in the draft NRC (National Register of Citizens) in the districts of Assam bordering Bangladesh, and a 10 per cent sample re-verification of names included in the draft NRC in the remaining districts. The centre will support the state government’s affidavit in Supreme Court,” Mr Sarma told reporters.
Mr Shah assured the Chief Minister that all outstanding issues will be dealt with positively. Mr thanked the Home Minister for deliberating on all the problems that the state has been facing as he termed the discussion encouraging and fruitful, a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said.
Mr Sarma also said a month’s timeline is being fixed to implement various provisions of the Bodo Accord. “We will identify the provisions which need to be fulfilled by centre and state,” he said.
The centre on January 27 last inked a pact with four factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and armed groups have been disbanded, but resentment is growing since the accord implementation is keenly awaited. Mr Sarma said a Group of Ministers (GoM) has been asked to submit its recommendations to the centre within a month.
The All-Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in August made public the confidential recommendations of the 14-member committee on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, alleging the “government is just sitting idle”.
The committee headed by Justice (retired) BK Sharma had submitted the report to Mr Sonowal for handing it over to the Home Minister on February 25.
Both Mr Sonowal and Mr Sarma had criticised this act of the AASU and had alleged it to be politically motivated as the AASU along with other indigenous organisations had formed Assam Jatiya Parishad, a political party to contest in the 2021 Assam elections.
While Mr Sonowal said “the state is committed to implementing the Clause in letter and spirit”, Mr Sarma had said, “Only the Assam Legislative Assembly has the onus to implement the Clause which shall be done after due consultation with the centre.”
The Clause 6 of Assam Acord signed in 1985 between the centre and the leaders of Assam Movement (1979-86), says: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
The bone of contention since the signing of the Accord was the definition of Assamese people, which the committee tried to address. According to the recommendations of the committee, any citizen or descendants of India – Assamese community, indigenous tribal community of Assam, other indigenous community of India and other citizens – residing in Assam on or before January 1, 1951, will be considered as “Assamese people”.
In Delhi, Mr Sarma, who is also the convenor of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the BJP’s anti-Congress platform with other regional partners in the northeast, added that on Monday more discussions on several key issues of the northeast will be taken by the Home Minister.
“On Saturday, we discussed the Naga peace process. Today, we discussed Assam. On Monday, we will discuss Tripura and Manipur. We will discuss the Bru-Reang issue,” Mr Sarma told reporters on the sidelines of the Monday meeting.