While the historic 6–year long Assam Movement against foreigners culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, the process of working on the all-important Clause 6 of the accord that guarantees constitutional safeguards to the ‘Assamese people’ began in 2019.
It was highly disgusting that the Assam Accord was deliberately allowed to gather dust in the shelves of the corridors of power in Dispur and Delhi for long three-and-a-half decades.
It was indeed a case, as clear as daylight, of the powers that be in Dispur and Delhi doing absolutely nothing with the possible ulterior motive of causing the accord to rot and decay in the dustbin of history.
As contemptuous disregard towards Clause 6 of the Assam Accord virtually became the order of the day, an objective analysis clearly reveals that as the first term of the Modi-led NDA government was coming to an end and the 2019 Parliamentary election was round the corner, the union cabinet led by the Prime Minister took the decision to implement the Clause 6 of the accord apparently with the intention of luring the voters of Assam.
Significantly, after the BJP romped home to power for the second time and formed the second NDA government, the Union home minister in association with the Assam government constituted a 14-member so-called ‘high-level committee’ headed by retired High Court Judge Biplab Kumar Sarma in July 2019 to analyse and submit a report with recommendations on Clause 6 for due implementation.
It is pertinent to note at this juncture that after the ‘high-level committee’ was entrusted with the task, the Home Minister made the announcement that the report to be submitted by the committee would be immediately implemented without delay or loss of time.
Despite all high-sounding promises and announcements, what followed turned out to be a repetition of the Centre’s step-motherly attitude towards Assam as has been witnessed over the last seven decades.
In the first place, the Centre appeared to be reluctant to officially receive the report, leave alone making its contents public.
Finally, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in its capacity as member of the committee made the report public. Immediately it was clear as to why the Centre was shying away from accepting the report. Finally, the ‘high-level committee’ submitted the report to the Assam chief minister.
Thereafter began another process of condemnable delay presently being caused by the imposition of an official quagmire in respect of the report on Clause 6. Far from officially receiving the report of the committee, the Centre has directed the state government to get the report legally examined.
What a maze – a mounting pathless maze! Such uncalled-for; unexplainable and out-of-the-box road-blocks are very much in the order of things when the Centre deals with any aspect pertaining to the development of Assam.
As per a statement made by a state minister, the process of engaging legal experts to review the report is ‘on’. One wonders how long this process of selecting and engaging legal experts may take. In between, there may be the process of approving the experts by the Centre. Again, the views of the experts on the report may be subjected to more reviews by ‘greater’ experts.
While how many phases this labyrinth of vagueness and uncertainty will include as the process unfolds may not be much different from a mirage, Clause 6 may remain stuck to square one as in 1985.
In the wake of the AASU having made the report public on its own (termed as ‘unfortunate’ by the government), it is now clear as daylight as to why the report has presented itself as a thorn in the back of the government at the Centre.
The NDA government’s prime object is the implementation of the Hindutva agenda with accelerating momentum. In this respect, the government has already crossed an all-important milestone in enacting the CAA (possibly many more such milestones to be traversed in the years ahead).
In sheer contrast, the committee report on Clause 6 of Assam Accord recommends implementation of the Inner Line Permit (IPL) in Assam which serves as a road-block like the Rock of Gibraltar to the Centre in the CAA roadmap pertaining to the settlement of millions of Hindu Bangladeshis in the state.
Again, among others, the report recommends 80 to 100 percent reservation for indigenous people in the Assembly, Parliament and other local bodies by way of constitutional safeguards.
The report has also stated that the definition of Assamese People should mean the indigenous tribals, other indigenous communities of Assam and the indigenous Assamese.
“While providing constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards in terms of Clause 6 of Assam Accord, the term ‘Assamese People’ shall be construed as including: All citizens of India who are part of Assamese community, residing in the Territory of Assam on or before 01.01.1951 or any indigenous Tribal Community of Assam residing in the Territory of Assam on or before 01.01.1951, any other indigenous community of Assam residing in the Territory of Assam on or before 01.01.1951 or all other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam on or before 01.01.1951. And Descendants of the above categories.”
The definition of Assamese read with the recommendation of the committee that till the deportation of the post-1971 stream of declared foreigners is completed, they should be resettled in areas outside Assam as an interim measure, appears to be thoroughly unacceptable to the Centre.
New Delhi’s apparent motive clearly appears to be to make the Hindu Bangladeshis a majority or near majority in the state and in the process make Bengali a majority language would be clearly foiled if the recommendations made in the report are to be accepted.
Again, if the constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as recommended by the committee are to be accepted, the indigenous people will always enjoy an advantage over the Centre’s blue-eyed people like the Hindu Bangladeshis that have entered the state till the end of 2014 (potential vote bank).
With the issue of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord coming to such a pass and in view of the Centre’s and the state government’s rude, crude and punitive attitude towards any protest or semblance of protest against CAA by slapping charges of ‘war against the state’ or ‘having Maoist links’ etc on the selective protester, one may very well assume that the report of the Committee on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord may finally come to naught.
The attitude of the Centre of sighing away from the report so long may be a precursor in this respect. With the polls to the Assam Assembly round the corner, one wonders what cards may be up the sleeves of New Delhi to take the masses for another ride in the matter of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.