Hesitation in Delhi over Assam panel report, so CM will accept it

Tora Agarwala, Deeptiman Tiwary
Hesitation in Delhi over Assam panel report, so CM will accept it

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

Ten days after the Centre-appointed high-level committee finalised its report on implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, the government has agreed to accept the report. The report, incidentally, will be handed to the state government, and not the Union Ministry of Home Affairs which constituted the committee.

Sources said there is unease in the central government over the report because the committee is learnt to have recommended a 1951 cut-off date to define “Assamese” people, and has also suggested an Inner Line Permit regime for the state. Based on the definition of “Assamese”, the committee is said to have made quota recommendations for the state Assembly, educational institutions and government jobs.

The report has been kept in a sealed cover at the Implementation of the Assam Accord Department of the state government in Dispur.

Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord states 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.”

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Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told The Indian Express: “Yes, they will submit the report on February 25 to the Chief Minister. He will receive it on behalf of the Government of India.”

Justice (retired) Biplab Kumar Sarma, chairman of the High-level Committee on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, too said: “Yes, that’s what I have come to know. Formal invitation is yet to be received.”

In New Delhi, officials said the report has put the Centre in a spot. If it were to reject or not accept the report and its recommendations, it could fuel the ongoing protests in Assam. But a 1951 cut-off date, official said, would not only exclude a large number of Bengali Hindus, but also many indigenous Assamese.

“We are told the cut-off date they have set for defining Assamese is pre-1951 NRC. This means if we accept it, we will have to conduct another NRC in Assam. Also, we are not yet in favour of granting the ILP to Assam,” one official said.

The committee has written thrice to the MHA, seeking time to submit the report, but there has been no response. It tried to hand over the report to the Assam Chief Secretary who, it is learnt, declined to accept it.

The term of the committee ran out on February 15 after being given an extension. It finalised its report on February 10.

The committee was constituted by the Modi government during its first term. In the wake of the anti-CAA protests, several members resigned. It was reconstituted in July 2019.