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Clause 6 of Assam accord : indepth analysis

Clause 6 of Assam accord : indepth analysis

 

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Constitutional Framework || Citizenship

Why in News?

  • Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to set up a high-level committee to look into the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985.

Basics

  • The Assam Accord was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985
  • A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979
  • It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord
  • The accord prescribes deportation for everyone who entered the state illegally after the midnight of March 24, 1971.

Background

  • Since the colonial Times Assam has seen migration from the adjoining areas. The British brought farmers and plantation workers from Bengal and Bihar to augment their revenue. However, the problem of immigration aggravated after separation of East Pakistan and the persecution of Bangladeshis by the Pakistani Army.
  • The large-scale immigration from Bangladesh into the Assam during the 60s and 70s had erupted mass-protests in the state, culminated into signing of an accord between the leaders of Assam and the Union Government headed by PM Rajiv Gandhi.

What is Clause 6 of the Assam Accord?

  • Clause 6 of the Accord envisaged that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
  • However, it has been felt that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord has not been fully implemented even almost 35 years after the Accord was signed.
  • Hence the Cabinet approved setting up of a High Level Committee to suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as envisaged in Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
  • Purpose – Assam Accord came at the culmination of a movement against immigration from Bangladesh.
  • For recognition as citizens, the Accord sets March 24, 1971 as the cutoff date.
  • It was proposed that the immigrants up to the cutoff date would get all rights as Indian citizens.
  • So, Clause 6 was inserted to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the “Assamese people”.
  • It seeks to offer constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to the Assamese people.
  • “Assamese people” – As agreed by most stakeholders, the NRC of 1951 was the basis for defining “Assamese people”.
  • The current NRC update is based on March 24, 1971, which defines citizenship.
  • On the other hand, Clause 6 relates to “Assamese people”.
  • If 1951 is accepted as the cutoff, it would imply that those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 would be Indian citizens.
  • However, they would not be eligible for safeguards meant for “Assamese people”.

How has the implementation been?

  • AASU (All Assam Students Union) and the Assam government had submitted a number of proposals in furtherance of Clause 6.
  • Although some steps have been taken in this regard, the clause remains to be implemented fully.
  • The Assam government website, however, describes a number of steps as part of the implementation of Clause 6.
  • These include cultural centres and film studios, and financial assistance to historical monuments and xatras (Vaishnavite monasteries).
  • In 1998, the Home Ministry set up the sub-committee under G K Pillai.
  • In 2006, the state government set up a committee to help define “Assamese”.
  • In 2011, it constituted a Cabinet sub-committee to deal with Clause 6.

What are the demands?

  • Former CM Prafulla Mahanta was one of the signatories to the 1985 Accord as the then AASU President.
  • Mahanta views “safeguards” as reservation of electoral seats, and land and political rights.
  • There are also demands that it should include rights over natural resources and protection of the culture of the indigenous people.
  • It is also demanded that one needed to be a citizen in or prior to 1951 to purchase land, and similar laws for jobs too are called for.
  • g. Arunachal Pradesh entrusts rights over natural resources on the basis of ethnic community
  • Likewise, Manipur passed a Bill, last year, to define “Manipuri people” with 1951 as the cutoff.

Way forward- Mandate of the HLC

  • The Committee shall examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
  • It will hold discussions with all stakeholders and assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in Assam Legislative Assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.
  • It will look onto quantum of reservation in employment under the Government of Assam and other measures to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.
  • It is expected that the setting up of the Committee will pave the way for the implementation of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit and will help fulfil longstanding expectations of the Assamese people.

What are the challenges?

  • The AASU has described it as an effort to mislead people before pushing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill proposes to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from 3 countries including Bangladesh.
  • This has divided residents of the Brahmaputra Valley (mostly anti-Bill) and Barak Valley (pro-Bill).
  • The government and the committee should thus take into account these concerns too, while deciding on the safeguards.

Additional Info- Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019

  • The Bill seeks to facilitate acquisition of citizenship by six identified minority communities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who came to India before December 31,2014.
  • The minimum residency period for citizenship is being reduced from the existing 12 years under the present law to 7 years.
  • The law will not be confined to the state of Assam but will also provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through the western borders of the country to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh.
  • The beneficiaries of Citizenship Amendment Bill can reside in any state of the country and the burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country.

Mains Question

  • Enumerate the major points of the ‘Assam accord (1985).
  • Assam Accord Vs Citizenship amendment bill, key issues and analysis.