AASU releases 'confidential' report that wants 'declared foreigners' settled outside Assam

The report, which was submitted to the state Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and was supposed to be forwarded to the Centre, also wants sealing of the entire Indo-Bangladesh border.
All Assam Students Union AASU supporters stage a protest rally against the amended Citizenship Act in Dibrugarh. (Photo | PTI)
All Assam Students Union AASU supporters stage a protest rally against the amended Citizenship Act in Dibrugarh. (Photo | PTI)

GUWAHATI: The All Assam Students' Union, which was part of the Centre-appointed committee on implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, on Tuesday released a "confidential" report, which, among other things, seeks "declared foreigners" to be settled outside the state.

The report, which was submitted to the state Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and was supposed to be forwarded to the Centre, also wants sealing of the entire Indo-Bangladesh border and reservation of almost all of the state's parliamentary seats for the local people, and creation of a legislative council in the state.

Assam has 14 Lok Sabha seats.

AASU, which led a mass movement for expulsion of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the early 1980s, released the report, contending it had to do so as the state government was "just sitting idle" over it, and that the people of Assam needed to know its contents.

"It has been more than five months since we submitted the report but there is simply no action from the government.

People are asking us daily what happened to it. We have finally decided to release it as the people have the right to know," AASU chief advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya said, addressing a press conference with a member of the committee Nilay Dutta.

Clause 6 of the Accord says, constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

The bone of contention since the signing of the Accord on August 15, 1985 has been the definition of Assamese people.

The committee tried to address the issue by including tribal, indigenous and all other Indian citizens residing within the territory of Assam as per the First Schedule of the Constitution on or before January 1, 1951 along with their descendants within the ambit of Assamese people.

On February 25, the high-level committee on the implementation of Clause 6, headed by Justice (retd) B K Sharma, had submitted the report to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for handing it over to Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The chairman of the committee had submitted the report to the chief minister in the presence of the entire state cabinet, top government officials and journalists.

"We do not know where the report is. Is it in the chief minister's almirah or somewhere? Has it been sent to Delhi? It is not acceptable to neglect the report this way," Bhattacharya said.

When asked if there could be any legal implications for AASU or the members of the panel for making the "confidential" report public, Dutta replied in the negative.

The Union Home Ministry had in January last year formed the committee headed by retired union secretary level officer M P Bezbaruah, but six of the nine members declined to be part of it, following which the panel was reconstituted on July 16, 2019 with 14 members and justice Sharma as its chairman.

As part of the core proposals, the panel sought implementation of the Assam Accord in "letter and spirit", while suggesting prompt measures to "fully" seal the India- Bangladesh border.

"Till the deportation of post-1971 stream of declared foreigners is completed, they should be resettled in areas outside the state of Assam as an interim measure," it said.

According to the Assam Accord, all foreigners coming to Assam on or after March 25, 1971 would be detected, their names deleted from electoral rolls and steps taken to deport them.

It also suggested reservation of 80-100 per cent Parliament seats from the state for indigenous people, and recommended creation of an Upper House in Assam.

The panel suggested that 80-100 per cent jobs should be reserved for Assamese people in Group C and D posts of central government, PSUs, private sector and public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

It also sought 80-100 per cent quota for local people in all jobs of the Assam government and state PSUs, while 70-100 per cent in state PPP projects.

Recommending setting up land tribunals, the committee suggested measures for protecting the land rights of the local population.

"Assamese language shall continue to be the official language of Assam as per the provisions of the Assam Official Language Act, 1960 throughout the state with appropriate provisions for use of local languages in Barak valley, hill districts and the BTAD (Bodo inhabited areas)," it said.

Seeking protection and promotion of all the indigenous languages of the state irrespective of the number of speakers, the report said, the four language policy should be given appropriate legislative protection and suggested setting up an Autonomous Language and Literary Academy/Council of Assam.

It also asked the government to give statutory legislative protection to Sattras, Namghars and other indigenous religious centres and establish separate cultural and research institutes of different branches on the lines of Sahitya Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Lalit Kala Akademi.

"Multipurpose cultural complexes should be built throughout the state towards protection, preservation and upliftment of cultural heritage of each one of the tribes and other ethnic communities of Assam," the report said.

To protect biodiversity, the Assam State Biodiversity Board should be strengthened with sufficient financial assistance for taking up various measures.

The committee advised the government to form a body to monitor the execution of the report and reconcile any constitutional or legal challenges for implementing the suggestions at the earliest within two years from the date of its submission.

"The body should preferably be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court/High Court with representatives from Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Government of Assam and All Assam Students' Union.

The body should meet at least once every three months to monitor the progress," it added.

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