Thursday, 18 July, 2019

Govt notifies top panel to look into Assam Accord clause on social, cultural identity


 News

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has notified a high-level committee to look into the implementation of a clause of Assam Accord that seeks to provide safeguards to preserve and promote social, cultural and linguistic identity of Assamese people.
  • The committee will be headed by retired Gauhati High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma.
  • It would be supported by the Northeast division of the MHA and the Assam government.
  • The committee was first notified in January, but its members did not join in protest against the citizenship amendment Bill.

Clause 6 of Assam Accord

  • Clause 6 of the Accord 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.”
  • It was inserted to safeguard the socio-political rights and culture of the indigenous people of Assam.

Terms of Reference of the committee

Reservation

  • It will make recommendations on reservation for Assamese people in the Assembly, and other local bodies.
  • It will also look into the need for reservation in government jobs for Assamese people.

Language Protection

  • It will suggest measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam.
  • In doing so it will be required to hold discussions with various stakeholders, including social organisations, legal and constitutional experts, eminent persons from the field of art, culture and literature, conservationists, economists, linguists and sociologists.
  • It will examine effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement Clause 6.
  • It may also suggest any other measures as may be necessary to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

Assam Accord

Background

  • The Assam Movement (or Assam Agitation) was a popular movement between 1979 and 1985 against undocumented immigrants in Assam.
  • The movement was led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam GanaSangramParishad (AAGSP).
  • The years from 1979 to 1985 witnessed political instability, collapse of state governments, imposition of President’s Rule, sustained, often violent, agitation, frequent general strikes, civil disobedience campaigns, which paralyzed all normal life for prolonged periods, and unprecedented ethnic violence.

Elections

  • The Union Government’s effort to hold a constitutionally mandated election to the state assembly in 1983 led to its near total boycott, a complete breakdown of order, and the worst killings since 1947 on the basis of tribal linguistic and communal identities.
  • The election proved to be a complete failure with less than 2 per cent of the voters casting their votes in the constituencies with Assamese majority.
  • Nearly 3,000 people died in statewide violence. The violence had a traumatic effect on both sides, which once again resumed negotiations in earnest.

Accord

  • The Assam Accord (1985) 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.
  • Though the accord brought an end to the agitation, some of the key clauses are yet to be implemented, which has kept some of the issues festering.

Citizenship

  • As per the Accord all those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
  • And those who had entered after 1971 were to be deported back.
  • The entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but were to enjoy all other rights of citizenship.

Significance

  • The task of revising the electoral rolls, on the basis of the agreement, was taken up in earnest. The existing assembly was dissolved and fresh elections were held in December 1985.
  • A new party, Assam GanaParishad (AGP), formed by the leaders of the anti-foreigners movement, was elected to power.
  • PrafullaMahanta, an AASU leader, became at the age of thirty-two the youngest chief minister of independent India.
  • Extreme and prolonged political turbulence in Assam ended.

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