Guwahati: Hours after the Centre formed a nine-member committee to implement Clause-6 of the Assam Accord, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) on Sunday declined to be a part of it demanding that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill be scrapped first.

Reacting sharply to the formation of the committee,  AASU General Secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said the organisation will not be a part of the Committee as the BJP-led government has formed it just three months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls to seek votes in Assam.

“It is just a ploy to exploit the feelings of Assamese people. We already had one tripartite committee between the Centre, state and the AASU. It had a couple of meetings and proceeded towards reservation issue. Why suddenly another committee then?” he asked.

The Centre on Saturday set up the high-level Committee to assess the quantum of seats to be reserved in the Assam Assembly and local bodies for the Assamese people, besides providing other safeguards, as per the Clause-6 of the Assam Accord.

“By bringing in the Citizenship Bill, the BJP government wants to violate the Clause 5 of the Accord. The Clause 5 says about detection, deletion and deportation of illegal migrants into Assam. Without enforcing this, how can we talk about Clause 6?” Gogoi said.

The high-level Committee, to be headed by former Union Tourism Secretary MP Bezbaruah, was set up as per the Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord, the Home Ministry said.

Earlier, another high-level committee with bureaucrat GK Pillai as the chief was constituted for the Assam Accord implementation when the NDA headed by former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was in power at the Centre, but not much progress was made by it.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before 31 December 2014.

All amendments moved by the opposition in the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, of the Bill were defeated on 31 December 2018.

Addressing an election rally at Silchar on 4 January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, will be passed as soon as possible in Parliament as a penance for past injustices.

Sarma finds AASU subscribing to Jinnah’s theory
Senior Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Sunday that if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is not passed, Assam will go the “Jinnah” way. “People are concerned that we are trying to bring somebody (outsiders), which is false. Without that Bill, we are surrendering ourselves to the philosophy of Jinnah… This is a fight between Jinnah’s legacy and India’s legacy,” Sarma, a strategist once with the Congress who has won the trust of BJP’s central leadership, said at a press conference in Guwahati.

If the narrative in a section of the media is to be believed, the Citizenship Amendment Bill has driven a wedge in Assamese society where residents of Barak Valley, dominated by Bengalis, have welcomed the move; whereas the inhabitants of Brahmaputra Valley who are mostly Assamese, do not want non-Assamese people to be accommodated in the National Register of Citizens of India.

The premise of the Bill is that non-Muslims are persecuted in Islamic countries surrounding India. These Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, etc flee countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and seek shelter in this country. On the other hand, Muslims are not expected to suffer persecution in nations formed on the basis of their religion. Ergo, the proposed law posts, if they enter India, the motive has to be the lookout for greener pastures.

In simpler words, their reason is a lookout for employment, which is economic. And this is a burden on the already stressed economy of India, which nationalists are not ready to bear with. The Bill, however, tries to stay somewhat politically correct by referring to Muslim infiltrators as “economic migrants”.

However, the Bill is seen to be violating the 1985 Assam Accord that, simply put, says that any immigrant who came into the state after the midnight of 24 March 1971, would be identified as a foreigner. Asked about this on Sunday, Sarma said, “Let the Assam Accord be violated, but let us not go to Jinnah. You have to determine between the Assam Accord and Jinnah. Which way will you go?”

Sarma said, “The Bill itself will strengthen us, but rumours are being spread about it. If the here, we people will lose Sarbhog seat (an Assembly seat in Lower Assam where Bengali Hindus play a determining factor and that elected BJP state president Ranjit Dass). We will lose many seats… Detection and deportation (of illegal migrants) will be done, but not at the cost of Jinnah.

We cannot have detection and deportation to make Badruddin Ajmal (an MP from the AIUDF, which enjoys large support among Bengal-origin Muslims in the state) the chief minister of Assam. If something leads us to make Ajmal the chief minister, then we will have to check that policy… If the Bill is not passed, 17 Assamese seats, which elect Assamese people, will go the Jinnah way… We are trying to save Assam from Jinnah. We are not apologetic… I am against Jinnah.”
Sarma added that the purpose of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was to “detect Jinnahs”.

Sarma’s comment came on the day the Union Home Ministry notified a nine-member committee to work for the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. Clause 6 reads: “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.”

Regarding the definition of “Assamese people”, Sarma said the state government is willing to accept any cut-off which is 1951 or prior to that. The 1951 NRC as the basis for defining “Assamese people” was also recommended in a report prepared by former Assembly speaker Pranab Gogoi. Sarma referred to it as providing the foundation for future work for defining “Assamese people”.

Among those who have warned the BJP against the Citizenship Amendment Bill is its ally AGP. On 8 January, the powerful All Assam Students’ Union and 30 other organisations have called for a state-wide bandh against the legislation.