High Level Committee’s Recommendations on Clause 6 of Assam Accord

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Explained: High Level Committee’s Recommendations on Clause 6 of Assam Accord

Barasha Das and Kareng Phukan | August 16, 2020 00:13 hrs

On 11th August last, the High-Level Committee on the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord made its report public.  

The 14-member committee, headed by Justice Biplab Kumar Sharma, a former judge of the Gauhati High Court was constituted on 15th July 2019 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (North-East Division) to suggest measures and recommendations for proper implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. 

The Committee submitted its report to chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on 15th February last.

So why was it made public on 11th August?

Samujjal Bhattacharya, chief advisor of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), stated that although the report was submitted five months back, the state, as well as the central governments, had not yet reported on the same. 

“There is no clarity as well on whether the Assam government has handed it over to the Centre yet. As the government has remained quiet on its contents and about its implementation, we decided to make it public so that people in Assam know about it,” said Bhattacharya.

Background of the Assam Accord

The Assam Accord is a tripartite Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between the representatives of the Assam Movement involving AASU, the state government, and the Centre. It was signed on 15th August 1985. It was the result of a six-year-long agitation - the Asom Andolan - that started in 1979, demanding the identification and deportation of all illegal foreigners, predominantly the Bangladeshi immigrants.

The problem of migration of people in Assam has a long history. The agitation was started under the leadership of AASU as the migration created problems for the indigenous population of the region in the socio-economic and cultural arena. 

Nearly 860 people were killed in the Assam Agitation. The students’ community sacrificed a year of their academic session amid the movement.

Highlights of the Assam Accord

i) 1st January 1966 shall be the base date and year for purpose of detection and deletion of foreigners.

ii) All persons who came to Assam prior to 1st January, 1966 shall be regularised. 

iii) Persons who came after 1st Jan 1966 and up to 24th March 1971 shall be detected and their names deleted from the electoral list. However, their names shall be registered as per Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and Rules, 1939 and shall be restored to the electoral list on completion of ten years of their domicile in Assam. 

iv) All persons who came after 25th March, 1971 shall be detected and expelled.

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord

The Clause stated that “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.”  

What is the controversy?

The AASU demanded the base date for the purpose of detection and deletion of foreigners to be 1951. However, in the Accord, the cut-off year was set as 1971.  The National Register of Citizens (NRC) was updated based on this cut-off.

Further, although Clause 6 did aim to provide the ‘Assamese people’ with certain safeguards exclusively, those that could not be availed by others, there was no clear definition of the term ‘Assamese People’.

Even after much debate, all attempts to provide a consensus on the definition had failed over the decades.

Highlights of the recommendations given by the High-Level Committee:

1. On definition of ‘Assamese People’

‘Assamese people’ shall be construed as including-

a) Assamese community, residing in the Territory of Assam on or before 1st January 1951; or
b) Any indigenous tribal community of Assam residing in the territory of Assam on or before 1st January, 1951; or
c)  Any other indigenous community of Assam residing in the territory of Assam on or before 1st January, 1951; or
d) All other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam on or before 1st January, 1951; and
e) Descendants of the above categories.

2. On Cultural and Social Safeguards

a) All historical places and heritages should be preserved and protected by the government of Assam.
b) There must be measures for conservation and research of the languages, culture and public life of Khilanjiya (indigenous) tribes of Assam.
c) Special laws be passed for protection, preservation and promotion of cultural, social and linguistic identity.
d) Appropriate representation from indigenous communities in councils/governing bodies of the national literary and cultural organisations like Sahitya Academy, Lalit Kala Academy, etc be ensured. 

3. On Language and Script

a) Necessary constitutional safeguards to be ensured for the protection of Assamese and other indigenous languages.
b) No languages apart from Assamese and indigenous languages will be imposed forcefully as languages of the State.
c) Assamese should be implemented as the State Official language as per the Official Language Act, 1960 throughout the state, with provisions for use of local languages in Barak Valley, Hill Districts and the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts.
d)  Mandatory provision of an Assamese language paper for recruitment in state government services with alternatives for Barak Valley districts, BTAD and Hills Districts. 



e) To set up academies for all-round development of each of the indigenous tribal languages including, Bodo, Mishing, Karbi, Dimasa, Koch-Rajbongshi, Rabha, Deuri, Tiwa, Tai and other indigenous languages.
f) An autonomous organization be created by act of the Legislative Assembly, for the prevention and development of indigenous languages.
g) The Assamese and Bodo scripts should be encoded in ISO (International Standards Organization, London) standard. Urgent step to be taken by the state government in this regard.

4. On Political safeguards

a) Reservation of 65 to 100 percent of the seats of the Parliament and the Assam Legislative Assembly (ALA) for the Assamese/indigenous people of the state, excluding the seats reserved for SC/ST.
b) Parliamentary Constituencies (Lok Sabha) and Legislative Assembly be taken up to give proper representations to the indigenous people.
c) Powers of complete autonomy may be given to the state and Centre should retain the powers only in areas of defence, external affairs, communication and currency.
d) An Upper House be created in Assam to give representation to all communities, especially the ones now left unrepresented.
e) 1951 be the base year for contesting elections.
f) Inner Line Permit (ILP) should be introduced in Assam.

5. On Employment safeguards:

a) For jobs of Central Govt, Central PSUs and Private Enterprises - 100 percent reservation in Grade III and IV, and 70 percent reservation in Grade I and II for the indigenous people of Assam.
b) For  jobs of Central and State Govt. located in Assam - 100 percent reservation in Grade IV and 80 percent reservation in Grade I,II and III.
c) For jobs of State Govt, 100 percent reservation in all categories.
d) 70 percent of all jobs in private sector in Assam be reserved for local indigenous people.
e) Assam Employment Commission be set up.
f) Reservation be made for ‘Assamese’ youths in all Technical, Medical and Management Institutes/Colleges in the state.

6. On land rights

a)  The provisions of Assam Land Revenue and Regulation, 1886 (as amended) be strictly followed.
b) The rights be confined to ‘Assamese People’ putting restrictions on transferring the same by any means to other persons other than ‘Assamese People’.
c) Identify the Revenue Circles of the state where only ‘Assamese People’ can own and possess land.
d) Immediate steps to prevent the shrinkage/decrease of prime agricultural land. Complete ban on transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.
e) Updating and authenticating the land records.
f) A time bound 3 year programme to allot Patta to the ‘Assamese People’.
g) An act needs to be enacted by the ALA making encroachment on Government land, forest land a cognizable criminal offence with provisions for an expeditious trial.
 

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