Govt stunned as AASU makes confidential report public

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‘Clause 6 of Assam Accord to be implemented’ ** ‘Making the panel report public unfortunate’

HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Aug 11: All Assam Students’ Union on Tuesday released the confidential report of High Power Committee set up by ministry of home affairs (MHA) for implementation of Clause VI of historic Assam Accord saying that the public has the right to know the contents of the report submitted by the committee to the government five months ago.

This development has literally unsettled the corridors of power at Dispur. The MHA has constituted the High Power Committee on July 16, 2019, for recommending measures to implement the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord in which three members of the AASU were included.

The committee headed by retired Justice Biplab Sharma submitted its report to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Guwahati on February 25 this year for handing it over to Union home minister Amit Shah.

As per Clause 6, 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.

“We are releasing the report only because the government is just sitting idle,” advocate general of Arunachal Pradesh Nilay Dutta, who is also a member of the committee said.

“It has been more than five months since we submitted the report but there is simply no action from the government. People are asking us daily what happened to it. We have finally decided to release it as the people have the right to know,” AASU chief advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya said addressing a press conference here.

“We do not know where the report is. Is it in the chief minister’s almirah or somewhere? Has it been sent to Delhi? It is not acceptable to neglect the report this way,” Bhattacharya said.

The report sought to implement the Assam Accord in letter and spirit, and also asked the government for prompt measures to seal the India-Bangladesh border.

It also suggested reservation of 80-100% in Parliament seats from the state, while recommended creation of an Upper House in Assam. When asked if there will be any legal implication for making the report public, senior advocate Dutta said it will not have any repercussion.

“The report was completed and duly submitted in the stipulated time.  Now we need result, no more verbal assurance,” Bhattacharya said.

“Union home minister Amit Shah gestured commitment to step up measures to implement the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord within a week after submitting the final report of the high-level committee. Unfortunately, later, the home minister himself could not manage time even to receive the report in hand from the committee,” AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said.

Gogoi alleged that certain leaders of the ruling BJP have violated the ‘secrecy’ of high-level committee’s report. “The report has been leaked and available to certain ruling party leaders and loyal administrators. This is against the ethics of secrecy,” Gogoi said.

AASU president Dipanka Kumar Nath said the committee had recommended five specific categories to define the ‘Assamese’ keeping in mind the implementation of the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

These categories were – Assamese communities residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951, any indigenous tribal community residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951, any other indigenous community residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951, all other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam on or before January1, 1951 and descendants of the above categories.

According to a source, the recommendation of the high-level committee on the Assam Accord on the definition of “Assamese people” has caught the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state in a bind.

The Assam Accord was signed in 1985 between the Rajiv Gandhi government and the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) to end the six-year-long anti-foreigner movement in the north-eastern state bordering Bangladesh.

The MHA had in January last year formed the committee headed by retired Union Secretary MP Bezbaruah, but six of the nine members declined to be part of it, following which the panel was reconstituted on July 16, 2019 with 14 members and justice Sharma as its chairman.


Sonowal reacts

Meanwhile, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said that the present state government is committed to ensure implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit even as he felt that disclosing the report of the committee is very unfortunate.

“The state government is taking sincere steps to make the state free from illegal foreigners,” the chief minister said adding that no government earlier showed any interest to form a committee for implementation of clause 6 of the Accord.

The chief minister in a statement further said that certain political forces in the State do not wish the implementation of the Accord to take place.

The chief minister further said that even though the State government is battling against flood, erosion, landslides, storm, African swine fever, Baghjan gas well fire etc. along with COVID-19, the government continues its efforts sincerely to implement clause 6 of the Accord. Simultaneously the Central government is also taking steps in this regard. Therefore, without giving a definite timeframe, disclosing the report of the committee is very unfortunate, the chief minister stated.

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