Clause 6 delay fuels resentment in Assam
The Centre’s revelation in Parliament that the Clause 6 report is still with Dispur is set to trigger a fresh wave of protests by the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act brigade against the BJP-led state and central governments for alleged inaction and insincerity while dealing with issues pertaining to Assam.
These protests could only intensify in the run-up to next year’s Assembly polls because the anti-CAA brigade are working on getting all regional forces under one umbrella to unseat the ruling BJP.
On Wednesday, in a written response to four queries from Maharashtra Rajya Sabha member Sambhaji Chhatrapati on the status of the Clause 6 report and its implementation, Union minister of state for home G. Kishan Reddy said: “The high-level committee constituted by the ministry of home affairs on Clause 6 of Assam Accord has submitted its report to the government of Assam and its recommendations are under examination of the state government.”
AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya tweeted on Thursday, “Planned inaction & reluctance of @mygovindia in implementing Clause VI Committee Report of #AssamAccord is clear. Centre’s claim that @mygovassam is yet to forward report shows hypocrisy & insincerity. Demand safeguard as enshrined in Report alongside fulfilment of PM & HM’s promise.”
Bhattacharjya was part of the 14-member committee, led by Justice (retired) Biplab Kumar Sarma, constituted by the ministry of home affairs in July 2019 to suggest measures on how to implement Clause 6 within six months. The committee submitted its report to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in presence of his cabinet colleagues on February 25 this year after it could not get an audience with home minister Amit Shah, something which did not go down well with the panel members.
However, on August 12, All Assam Students Union president Dipanka Nath, general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi and Bhattacharjya made the report public since the government was allegedly sitting on it for five months and there was “public demand” to know about the report and its recommendations.
Bhattacharjya told The Telegraph that he wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Shah to honour their “ public commitment” vis-à-vis the Clause 6 report.
“The Centre’s response reflects its insincerity. The report has not reached the Centre even after six months. The Prime Minister had made a public commitment to implement the recommendations after getting the report. The home minister made a commitment in Parliament to implement the report in toto. We want them to implement the recommendations and warn the government against playing with the report,” Bhattacharjya said.
He said that Clause 6 is the right of the Assamese people and it has got nothing to do with the CAA which came into effect in January.
According to the 1985 Assam Accord, a culmination of the six-year-long movement against influx, the cut-off date for detection and deportation of illegal foreigners is March 24, 1971.
The CAA provides Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who entered from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 2014. The anti-CAA protesters feel that the Act is a threat to the identity and culture of the Assamese people.
“We have taken the burden of illegal foreigners till 1971 for which we got Clause 6. We won’t accept any more burden. That should be very clear,” Bhattacharjya said.
AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi and his Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) counterpart Palash Changmai told this newspaper that the government has left them with no option but to hit the streets to protest against the insincerity and speedy implementation of the Clause 6 report. “We stand vindicated in our decision to release the report. The report is still with Dispur after six months. We will not stay silent,” Gogoi said.
Changmai, like Gogoi, said that the government formed the Clause 6 committee to curb the anti-CAA protests which claimed five lives in the state in December last year. “The BJP government is not at all serious about the issues of Assam and the Northeast. It has compelled us to hit the streets seeking implementation of the Clause 6 report recommendations,” Changmai said.
Both the AASU and the AJYCP, which have been at the forefront of the anti-CAA movement, are backing the newly-formed Assam Jatiya Parishad, a regional political party formed to work for the interest of the Assamese people, by unseating the BJP in the 2021 Assembly polls.
The alleged inaction has provided the new party the right ammunition to attack the BJP-led government’s insincerity.
“We have no option but to take the issue to the people. Without democratic protests, our voices are not heard,” Changmai said.
BJP leaders had criticised the release of the report because the committee had given two years’ time to implement its recommendations which included defining an Assamese person who has been living in Assam prior to January 1, 1951, and 80-100 per cent reservation of seats from Assam in Parliament, Assembly and local bodies for Assamese candidates, among others. BJP insiders said these recommendations would not be easy to implement.