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Wed, 08 Apr 2020

Northeast Today

THE FATE OF CLAUSE SIX OF ASSAM ACCORD

THE FATE OF CLAUSE SIX OF ASSAM ACCORD
March 23
13:02 2020

Kishor Kumar Kalita

Finally the high-level committee (HLC) constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs in respect of the implementation of Clause Six of the Assam Accord submitted its report to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on 25th February. Although as per the Notification (No-11012/04/2019-NE.VI) which constituted the committee, it obliged to submit its report to the concerned Ministry, but the Ministry did not express any willingness to receive it. On February 10, the 14-member high-powered committee had finalised its report. It is about 91 pages long and was supposed to be submitted to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on February 11, four days before the committee’s term expired. However, Amit Shah did not give time to the committee members to receive their report. This raised doubt about the Union Government’s intention in regard to the implementation of the Assam Accord.

The notification has mentioned six tasks as terms of reference for the committee that includes-

a) The Committee will examine the effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord (The Clause 6 of the Assam Accord pledges to provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people).
(b) The Committee will hold discussions with various stakeholders including social organizations, legal and constitutional experts, and eminent persons from the field of art, culture and literature, conservationists, economists, linguists and sociologists.
(c) The Committee will assess the appropriate level of reservation of seats in Assam Legislative Assembly and local bodies for the Assamese people.
(d) The Committee will also suggest measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam.
(e) The Committee will recommend the appropriate level of reservations in employment under the Government of Assam for the Assamese people.
(f) The Committee may suggest any other measures as may be necessary to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

According to a media report, the committee spoke to more than 1,500 representatives from all quarters, and it was expected that the report would be a plethora of information on how constitutional safeguards on Assamese identity can be put in place. In that media report one of the members of the committee has said that as the high-powered committee was announced in the Parliament, the final report would be placed only before the parliament. It cannot be made public before it is laid before parliament. The member has also revealed that the Union Government has the absolute discretion whether the committee report would be brought before the parliament or makes it public before that. He said that once it is tabled before parliament, parliamentary privilege applies and one cannot discuss it.

To fulfil the tasks that have been assigned to the Committee, the committee on multiple occasions over the last more than five months met with several representatives from different organisations as well as individuals and recorded their views. The committee was formed in July 2019 and given six months to submit its report. The deadline was later extended by one month. It is pertinent to mention here that Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, the man who was committed to implement Assam Accord and also made parliamentary announcement for the same, a few months ago urged the Justice (retd) Biplab Kumar Sarma Committee to submit its report without any delay so that the Centre could implement it in letter and spirit. Shah also showed his “earnestness” on implementing Clause 6 and advised the committee to give best possible suggestions for providing constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people of Assam.

Surprisingly immediately after passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 the Union Home Ministry is unfolding a different behaviour in regards to the Clause Six and has expressed a kind of reservation on the committee report that was supposed to propose a number of measures to protect the culture, ethos and language of the indigenous people. Asserting the credit of constitution of a high –powered committee, Amit Shah once said that no such committee was formed by Government of India for 35 years since 1985 and no step was taken to resolve the problem. However, when the report has been finalised, the Union Home Minister has not expressed any pressing importance to receive the report from the committee and instead the government of Assam voluntarily has taken a role to receive it from the High-powered committee. Such a situation has a forwarding number of doubts and uncertainty and the people of the state are now questioning about the goodwill of the government in implementing the Assam Accord. If the Union Government does not take appropriate measures to review and implement the measures that have been suggested by the high-powered committee, then it will definitely push the whole political scenario of Assam to another stage of uncertainity.

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