Assam: MHA-Appointed Panel Recommends 1951 As Cut-Off Year To Define Indigenous People

Assam has witnessed extensive protests against the CAA, and the protesters in Assam assert that the CAA infringes the provisions of the Assam Accord. On Monday, February 17th, an appointed committee of the Indian home ministry suggested that the two-third seats in the Assam assemblage should be kept for the aboriginal people of the state.

The recommendation also stated that 1951 should be the cut-off year to describe the local population, along with the establishment of a legislative council (Upper House) for Assam with an introduction of the Inner Line Permit to control the movement of people from outside the state.

The high-level committee was set up by the ministry to propose different approaches to give legitimate and constitutional protection to Assam’s indigenous people. The 13-member panel, headed by Justice Biplab Kumar Sharma (Retd), finalized its report last week, which conveyed to the Indian home ministry that it was all prepared to present it to the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah.

According to the reports, the committee collectively suggested that those who resided in Assam in 1951 as well as their inheritors, irrespective of community, caste, language, religion or inheritance, will be considered as the aboriginal people of the state. A source said, “We have mentioned that there is no dissenting note, but there are two suggestions for the reservation of assembly and Lok Sabha seats. So, effectively, the reservation will go up to 80 per cent if it is accepted.” The source added, “The committee’s job is over. After its formal submission, the central government can modify, reject or implement (the report) in toto.”

Union Home Minister, Amit Shah.

As per Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord, the committee was set up in July 2019, to predict the legal, governmental and administrative safeguards to defend, safeguard and encourage the cultural, communal, linguistic characteristics, and inheritance of the Assamese people. The Assam Accord provides for detection and deportation of all ‘illegal’ immigrants, who entered the country after 1971 and are living in the state, irrespective of their religion.

On February 7, during a debate on the CAA, Union Home Minister, Amit Shah said, “In 1985, the Assam Accord happened. There is a provision in Clause 6 to protect the indigenous culture of the state. From 1985 to 2014, the committee was not constituted for Clause 6. I want to assure that the NDA government, through Clause 6, will protect the rights of the people of Assam. We have constituted the committee, and All Assam Students’ Union is part of the committee. I want them to send the report of the committee quickly.”

P.S.: According to the CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, to escape religious persecution will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship. The ILP, notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, has been in operation in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram for long, and it was introduced in Manipur in December 2019, following the uproar over the Citizenship Amendment Act.

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