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Assam panel appointed by Centre becomes virtually defunct – Here’s what happened

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Updated: January 13, 2019 4:16:38 PM

This month on January 2, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved the setting up of a committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and measures envisaged in the Memorandum of Settlement 2003 and other issues related to Bodo community.

Assam Accord, Assam Accord panel, Assam Accord committee, clause 6 of Assam Accord, M P Bezbaruah, Assam Accord panel defunts
The Assam Accord was signed on August 15, 1985, following the agitation in the state between 1979 and 1985. (PTI)

A high-level committee set up to implement clause 6 of Assam Accord has come to a standstill after its chairman M P Bezbaruah refused to head the panel. Bezbaruah is the fifth of its nine members to opt out from the committee. The former Union tourism secretary has informed the Home Ministry about his decision.

Explaining the reason behind the move, Bezbaruah told The Indian Express: “It is untenable for me to continue in the committee when the representatives of the civil society have refused to be a part of it. Being the head of a committee without civil society members does not make any sense.”

The Indian Express reports that the All Assam Students’ Union was the first to pull out of the committee and later three more members including two presidents of the Assam Sahitya Sabha — Nagen Saikia and Rongbong Terang — resigned.

According to the report, all these members resigned in protest of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 which violates one of the basic provisions of the Assam Accord.

Bezbaruah told IE that he had accepted the invitation from the government thinking that he can make some contribution. However, after some members resigned, he felt that the committee became defunct and the position of the chairman was now redundant. “I have not said that I am resigning, I have informed them (centre) that they can take a decision on this now,” he said.

This month on January 2, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved the setting up of a committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and measures envisaged in the Memorandum of Settlement 2003 and other issues related to Bodo community.

The Assam Accord was signed on August 15, 1985, following the agitation in the state between 1979 and 1985. Clause 6 of the Assam 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 was felt that Clause 6 of the accord was not fully implemented. The Cabinet, therefore, approved the Committee to suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as envisaged in Clause 6 of the Accord.

In a statement, the Home Ministry said that “the Committee will also assess the requirement of measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam, the quantum of reservation in employment under Government of Assam”.

Passed in Lok Sabha, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014.

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