The History Of The Assam Accord Is Crucial To Understand The Citizenship Amendment Bill

The recent Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) in the Lok Sabha has brought the entire North-East India to a boil. It might sound just like another amendment bill being passed in the parliament, but this bill will have a greater effect on the identity of North-Eastern people if the bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha, which is currently in stall, due to continuous opposition from the various opposition parties.

To understand why North-Eastern people, especially the Assamese, are agitated and dissatisfied with the decision of government to pass the bill, we must look back into time. Let us go back to the time of the Assam agitation (1979-1985), which finally ended with Assam Accord (1985). This continuous agitation in Assam for almost six years, was mainly due to problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh to Assam.

Assam is a bordering state to Bangladesh, which is why it has terribly suffered from the problem of illegal immigration since independence. The serious problem of illegal immigration led to a situation in the  70s and 80s when people felt threatened and there was a severe identity crisis among Assamese people. Ultimately, this feeling of unrest among people led to a serious movement and protest, led by AASU (All Assam Students Union), for a period of six years. Eventually, the movement finally ended when leaders of AASU, AAGSP (All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad) and the Government of India, signed the Assam Accord.

The clauses and demands in the Assam Accord were various, but the main demand was to safeguard the indigenous people of Assam who were feeling threatened by illegal immigration over the decades. To give protection and to safeguard to the Assamese language, culture and ethnic diversity of indigenous communities in Assam, the Government of India promised to detect and deport the illegal immigrants residing in Assam. The goal was to identify and deport all foreigners who came to Assam after midnight, March 25, 1971.

To put into force the detection of illegal immigrants, and the whole process, the Supreme Court of India ordered the central government to update the NRC (National Register of Citizens), which will help identify all illegal immigrants in Assam that will in turn go in according with the Assam Accord.

As of now, the second draft of NRC was published in later half of 2018, which identified around 40 lakh people to be residing in Assam without validation or documents of citizenship. The final list if NRC is yet to be published after the whole procedure is completed which will eventually declare the total number of illegal immigrants in Assam.

Now, coming to the main issue: why people of Assam and North-East are not happy about the passing of Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) in Lok Sabha. This very bill enables non-Muslim minorities in neighbouring nations to come and reside in India. This means people of these mentioned minorities will be granted Indian citizenship who want to migrate to India, if this bill is put into work. Therefore, the people of Assam who thought that they will finally find salvation, are now again feeling betrayed with the passing of this bill, which clearly is a dagger into heart of the main clause of Assam Accord.

The total percentage of Assamese people living in Assam, which according to 2011 census is about 48%. Perhaps, the Assamese are right about their linguistic crisis, they fear that their language, their culture and identity might be in consistent danger, eventually. That is why, the recent passing of Citizenship Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha has led to another period of unrest and protest in the whole state, and people are showing their dissatisfaction against this very bill.

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