PVM seeks land rights for indigenous people under Clause 6 of Assam Accord

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HT Correspondent

JORHAT, July 20:  Supreme Court lawyer and convenor of Prabajan Virodhi Manch (PVM) Upamunya Hazarika has raised the issue of land rights of indigenous people of the state to be included in Clause 6 of Assam Accord.

In a press statement, Hazarika, who had contested for the prestigious Gauhati Lok Sabha seat as Independent candidate, said that the constitution of the committee under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord by notification on July 15 omits in its terms of reference to include land as a subject for the purposes of safeguard.

“Under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord legal and Constitutional safeguards are to be provided to safeguard the identity of the Assamese people. With the current estimate of 80 lakh foreigners in Assam of whom 40 lakh have been excluded from the draft list and significantly smaller number likely to be excluded from the final list, it is clear that NRC alone cannot safeguard the indigenous people from becoming a minority,” Hazarika said.

The only reason for which infiltration occurs is the hunger for land by the Bangladeshi migrants who have already encroached lakh of bighas in middle and lower Assam and encroached upon 4 lakh hectares of forest land out of a total of 17 lakh hectares.

“It is because land has been reserved only for indigenous people in the other North eastern states is why they are safeguarded from Bangladeshi infiltration and without similar legal safeguards for local and indigenous people in Assam, there can be no reprieve from infiltrators,” Hazarika further said.

He said that only two subjects mentioned in the terms of reference are employment and reservation in the Assembly and local body constituencies.

“Reservation in assembly constituencies benefits only the leader and not the common indigenous person. To take an illustration, 77,420 bighas of land is encroached in Sipajhar which has over 70,000 encroachers constituting a significant vote bank. If  land is reserved only for those whose names and the names of their forefathers are in the NRC of 1951, most of the encroachers will not get any rights over the land and are liable to be evicted,” Hazarika said.

“On the other hand, if there is constituency reservation without land reservation, then these encroachers will be enabled to get permanent rights over the encroached land and will be a permanent vote bank for the local politician who can then choose to disregard the local indigenous population,”  he further said.

Hazarika said that if the intent was to save the identity and the indigenous population from becoming a minority, there was no alternative but to reserve land on a 1951 NRC basis and measures like constituency reservation would be only a safeguard for the indigenous leader and not for the indigenous people.

Hazarika also said that the Assam Accord had been signed by both the Central and the state governments and all subjects of legislation both under Parliament and the Assam Legislature come within its domain, including land. It is therefore imperative to include land as a subject and the fundamental basis for protecting the identity of the indigenous people.

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