As the Union government successfully passed the historic Citizenship Amendment Bill, Home Minister Amit Shah had stated in the Rajya Sabha that the government is committed to honouring the clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
Amit Shah had slammed the Congress for not implementing the same, despite signing the Accord back in 1985.
The Assam Accord was signed back in 1985 by the then Rajiv Gandhi government and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) to put a stop to the protests and unrest continuing in the state from 1979.
Today, PM Narendra Modi again asserted that his government is committed to safeguarding the guidelines under clause 6 of the treaty.
The Central Government and I are totally committed to constitutionally safeguard the political, linguistic, cultural and land rights of the Assamese people as per the spirit of Clause 6.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 12, 2019
What is Clause 6 of the Assam Accord
The Clause 6 of the Assam Accord reads, “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”.
Clause 6 was meant to act as a safeguard against the effect of migration between 1951 and 1971 on Assam’s demography and the state’s culture.
Committee to oversee implementation of Clause 6
Despite ruling Assam for decades, the Congress party had not constructed a committee to implement the guidelines under Clause 6. It was the Modi government that had constructed the committee in January this year.
Amit Shah stated, “In 1985, the Assam accord happened. There is a provision in clause 6 to protect the indigenous culture of the state. From 1985 to 2014, the committee was not constituted for Clause 6. I want to assure that NDA Government through committee to supervise clause 6 will protect rights of Assam. We have constituted the Committee and All Assam Students’ Union is part of the committee. I want them to send a report of the Committee quickly.”
The Assam government’s website lists several projects undertaken and funds sanctioned under the committee. Among those are the establishment of The Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra Society, The Jyoti Chitraban Film Studio Scheme, The Modernisation of the Jyoti Chitraban Film Studio Phase III, and special grant of funds for the protection of historical monuments in the state, among many others.
Opposition to CAB in Assam
Many political leaders, including the former leaders of AASU, who were a part of the Assam Accord, are opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Bill, claiming that the CAB will undo the Clause 6.
MP Bezbaruah, the first appointed Chairman of the high-level committee formed in January had quit in July when protests against the CAB broke out in Assam. Prafulla Mahanta, former CM of Assam and a leader of the Asom Gana Parishad, an NDA ally and BJP’s alliance partner in the state, stated that the CAB is extending the cut-off year from 1971 to 2014, thereby undoing whatever was promised under Clause 6.
The Assam Accord and the accompanying amendment in the Citizenship Act say that any person who entered the state before 25th March 1972 will be granted citizenship.
The protesting groups in Assam have been raising an objection to grant of citizenship rights to Bangladeshi illegal immigrants, regardless of their religious affiliation. The threat to demography and resources posed by Bangladeshi immigrants is profound in Assam and the people are seeing the CAB as a means that will enable lakhs of illegal immigrants and refugees in the state to become legal citizens.
BJP says CAB is needed in Assam to protect demography
Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP’s key leader in the North East and Assam minister, has been asserting that the CAB will no way harm the ethnic residents of Assam, and instead, it is necessary to protect the state’s demographics.
Sarma had stated that without Citizenship Amendment Bill, many assembly seats in Assam will go to Muslims, and in future Hindus will lose their right to appoint their own CM.
“I strongly believe that if this bill is not passed, Assamese Hindus will become the minority in just the next five years. That will be advantageous for those elements who want Assam to be another Kashmir” He had earlier said.
He had also added that it is a hard fact even acknowledged by the Supreme Court, who had called influx of Bangladeshi Muslims post-1971 ‘external aggression’, and emphasised on the need of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state.