Assam Accord crisis: Members refuse to serve

BJP urges members to think logically, not emotionally

New Delhi, January 12 (IANS):  Former Union tourism secretary M P Bezbaruah, who was appointed as the head of a government nominated committee to assess the quantum of seats to be reserved in the Assam Assembly for the Assamese, has declined the offer. The others who have already quit the panel two presidents of the Assam Sahitya Sabha, Nagen Saikia and Rongbong Terang, educationist Mukunda Rajbangshi and a nominee of the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). The members refuse to serve in the face of the controversy over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, the BJP on Saturday asked them to reconsider their decision logically.

“The BJP would like to request these eminent members to reconsider their decision not to be part of the committee logically, rather than emotionally,” Assam BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami told IANS here.

“Clause 6 is a necessity for protecting the rights of the indigenous people of Assam,” Goswami said.

Goswami stressed that while the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is effective nationally, the Assam Accord is confined only to Assam, which is why implementing its Clause 6 is necessary.

A day before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) tabled its report on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on January 7; the government announced the formation of a high-powered committee as approved by the Union Cabinet for implementing Clause 6 that seeks to protect the rights and culture of the state’s indigenous people.

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord seeks to provide constitutional, legislative and administrative measures to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assam’s indigenous communities.

Basically, it means reservation of electoral seats, land and political rights, rights to natural resources and protection of culture and heritage of the indigenous Assamese people.

However, with the Lok Sabha passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, questions have arisen about the viability of implementing Clause 6 since this will affect Clause 5 of the Accord.

According to Clause 5, only those people who came to Assam till March 24, 1971, will be accepted as Indian citizens. Clause 5 states: “Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.”

This means all illegal migrants irrespective of religion will be detected, deleted from the voters list and expelled.

However, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to make an exception to this by bringing in religion to give refuge to illegal infiltrators.

According to the Bill, people belonging to six minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, facing religious persecution, will be given citizenship in India.

Muslim refugees are not covered by the Bill.