It has been a year since a high-level committee presented its report on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord to the state government, but that document has yet to reach the centre. A Home Ministry statement in Parliament on Wednesday said the report is still “under examination” by the state.
“The high-level committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, headed by Justice (retd) BK Sharma, submitted its report to the Assam government. The recommendations are under examination,” G Kishan Reddy, the junior Home Minister said in response to a written question.
The centre’s response is significant given Assembly elections in Assam are now just weeks away.
The ruling BJP, while campaigning for the 2016 election, had promised the people of the state that they would protect their interests if (and they subsequently were) voted to power.
A committee was set up to provide recommendations to implement Clause 6; the clause, and the accord, was the end of a six-year protest (1979-85) against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The committee submitted its report in February 2020.
In September last year the centre asked the state to engage legal and constitutional experts to examine provisions of the report. Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said Home Minister Amit Shah wanted this because “the recommendations… require constitutional and legal changes”.
Clause 6 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.”
One of the issues since the signing of the accord was defining “Assamese people”.
The high-level committee recommended that any citizen or descendants of India – Assamese communities, indigenous tribal communities of Assam, other indigenous communities of India and other citizens – residing in Assam on or before January 1, 1951, could be included.
According to the terms and conditions of the committee, it will also “assess the appropriate level of reservation of seats in Assam Legislative Assembly and local bodies for the Assamese people.”
“The committee will (also) recommend the appropriate level of reservations in employment, under the government of Assam, for the Assamese people,” a Home Ministry notification adds.
It is perhaps worth pointing out that the Member-Secretary of the high-level committee, who was also Joint Secretary (North East) in the Home Ministry did not sign the report.