Constitutional safeguards for indigenous people a must: Assam students’ body

A day after the Union government reconstituted the high-level committee on the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) said constitutional safeguards for the indigenous people of Assam was a must.

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord states: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”

The accord is the primary reason why the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being updated in Assam with March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for determining the citizenship of the residents of the State.

“The Assam Accord warrants providing safeguards for the State’s indigenous people. We won’t let the provisions of this accord by violated,”AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya said.

He is among the 12 members of the committee headed by retired Gauhati High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma. It will submit a report within six months from the date of notification.

In January, the Centre formed a nine-member committee headed by retired bureaucrat M.P. Bezbaruah for this purpose. Most of the members either rejected the offer or resigned because of the controversy over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

“We will hold discussions with the stakeholders such as the Assam Sahitya Sabha and other indigenous bodies to place recommendations and suggestions to effectively implement the Assam Accord,” AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said.

A week ago, the AASU criticised the Centre’s and Assam government’s application to the Supreme Court demanding sample reverification of 10-20% of the names that appeared in the draft NRC published on July 30, 2018.

“At this juncture, when only a few days are left for the final NRC to be published, the reverification demand appears to be a conspiracy to derail the process,” Mr. Gogoi said.

Assam’s Home Department officials defended the reverification application, insisting they had made a similar demand almost a year ago. Reverification entails random checking of 20% of the NRC-cleared names in districts close to Bangladesh or where the average population growth rate is higher than the normal. The sample size for the remaining districts is 20%.

Assam has four districts bordering Bangladesh – Cachar and Karimganj in the Barak Valley and Dhubri and South Salmara-Mankachar in the western part of the State.

'Foreigner' Assamese

Pradip Kalita, a retired teacher based in Rangiya town, has been served a 'foreigner' notice by the local NRC authorities. Rangiya is about 60 km northwest of Guwahati.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kalita and members of his family went to the NRC centre at the Assam Forest Department's office in Hajo town only to find that the centre had been shifted temporarily because of floods to a college in nearby Damdama.

The NRC officials said Mr. Kalita could have been marked 'declared foreigner' due to a clerical error that would be rectified. He has no case with any Foreigners' Tribunal, which normally declares whether or not a person is a non-citizen.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 1:21:51 AM |

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