High-level committee on Clause 6
The members of the high level committee on Assam Accord. File image

In 1985 the 6-year long Assam Movement against foreigners end with the signing of the Assam Accord. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) was one of the signatories to the deal. Close on the heels of the Accord, the agitation leaders formed the Asom Gana Parishad and plunged headlong into electoral politics. The indigenous Assamese people en masse elected the AGP to the seat of power in Dispur.

The three-and-a-half decades that followed witnessed successive  AGP and Congress governments in the state taking to foolery & hoaxes in the name of the Assam Accord.  All mighty-mouthed announcements on the expulsion of Bangladeshis from Assam by booth the Congress and the BJP at the Centre have turned into cruel political jokes. This process of the savagery of jokes over the Assam Accord consumed 37 long years till date – causing the Accord to be fully bed-ridden with paralysis — now dead.

Following the BJP riding home to the seat of power in Dispur in 2016, the saffron dispensation at the Centre threw open its Bangladeshi card with a communal rider. As per the BJP parameter, every illegal Muslim Bangladeshi immigrant is a foreigner while an illegal Hindu Bangladeshi immigrant is not. In line with this framework, the CAA was enacted (with prior notice of CAB in the 2019 BJP election manifesto) under which all non-Muslim illegal Hindu migrants (in the case of Bangladeshis almost all illegal Hindu migrants) till December-end 2014 shall be granted citizenship under CAA which is now an Act, the law of the land.

Under the Assam Accord, the cut-off date & year for determination of foreigners is midnight of March 24, 1971. This date has now become a huge hoax with the CAA inflicting a death blow to the Accord. Sans teeth, fangs, claws, canines or hooks, today Assam Accord is as good as a fossil. A note may be taken of the fact that the AGP which had its birth from the womb of the Assam Accord voted in favour of Bill CAB in the Parliament for it to become CAA, law of the land. In short, the ground reality is that the Assam Accord is dead and buried.

One should not forget that many of the top AASU leaders of the eighties, nineties of the last century and thereafter finally landed up in the lap of the BJP and became ministers et al. The CAA enjoyed the full blessings of these ex-AASU leaders to become an Act. From that standpoint, although AASU was pivotal in initiating the anti-foreigners agitation in Assam, thereafter it proved to be a mere chatterbox.

Over the years, despite all its tall annunciations & billboards, its drive, particularly against foreigners in Assam, has been a journey of miserable failure. Its latest failure is on Clause-6 in front of the Assam Accord. Its overall failure is so pronounced that at times one has to wonder as to which side of the fence it may actually be located. Maybe, some still hold the AASU as a holy cow. However, at the ground level, its holy cow image has eroded in massive strides.

On the other hand, after voting in support of CAA, the AGP has seemingly been reduced to a party without a face of its own. Its only difference with the BJP appears to in the name. With the all-powerful CAA firmly stationed to ride roughshod over the dead Assam Accord, can the AASU or the AGP reanimate & rejuvenate the corpse of Assam Accord back to life.

While as of now, the BJP and its allies like the AGP are the all-powerful kingpins in the matter of providing ‘mati & bheti’ to millions of Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam, a foxy & sinister drama is seemingly all set to unfold in the coming days. Among others, the AASU and the AGP could very well be the high priests of the drama.

Only recently, the AGP president and minister for Assam Accord implementation Atul Bora called on the AASU leadership at their office. As per media reports, Bora informed that implementation of the Assam Accord was high in the priority list of the new government at Dispur and that soon formal discussion(s) on this count would be initiated with the AASU. The students’ body’s president Dipankar Kumar Nath also enthused optimism over the development.

At this juncture it is for minister Atul Bora, the state government and the AASU leadership to answer as to how to overcome the roadblock posed by the CAA even if the remains of the Assam Accord is exhumed from its grave and attempts made to implement it. The CAA is a law enacted by the Parliament while, practically speaking, the Assam Accord is as good as a waste paper sans any legal authority. It needs no legal expert to explain that the Assam Accord cannot withstand bulldozing rumble of CAA, legally speaking. The Union Home Minister has asserted umpteen number of times that the CAA would be implemented in letter and spirit.

The media has reported that minister Atul Bora had said during his visit to the AASU office that the state government was according to high priority to the implementation of the Accord. The AASU, Atul Bora and both New Delhi and Dispur may be told that in the last 37 years a thousand such bogus statements were made. More significant is the fact that over the decades the route was a freeway without any legal blockade as the CAA. Times have changed, history has changed. Assam Accord has become a thing of the past. Sham talks, statements or attempts to implement the Assam Accord is like asking for the moon, nay, the distant galaxy.

Factually speaking the Assam Accord and CAA cannot go together. Oil is oil and water is water. Only a fraud may play to the gallery with tricks that oil and water can be mixed. Perhaps, the AASU, Atul Bora and Dispur have the answer to this topsy-turvy hullabaloo. Will these great pundits make the answer public?

Meanwhile, observers feel that an attempt could be underway to exhume the grave of the  Assam Accord and enact long years of drama with the remains to extract political mileage by some, while the public may be at the receiving end. One also wonders if some big ring-masters could be behind the plot. Again, can such a sly, cunning and crafty drama be of help to those whose holy cow image has besmeared in mud to regain their lost reputation? The bitter truth could be that one may have to wait for years and decades together for the final answer as in the case of the chequered Naga Peace Talks.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com