IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Assam Accord Clause 6

30th December, 2020 Polity

Context: The Assam government has not examined the report of a panel formed for recommending measures for the implementation of Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord that had ended a six-year agitation against illegal immigration.

What is Clause 6?

  • Part of the Assam Accord that came at the culmination of a movement against immigration from Bangladesh.
  • 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.”
  • For recognition as citizens, the Accord sets March 24, 1971 as the cutoff. Clause 6 was inserted to safeguard the socio-political rights and culture of the “indigenous people of Assam”.

What has happened since?

  • Several committees have been set up over the years to make recommendations on implementation of Clause 6.
  • None of them made headway on the provision’s contentious issues, however, until the latest one that was set up by the Home Ministry in 2019.
  • Following widespread protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, now an Act, in December and January, the government gave an urgent push to Clause 6 to pacify the Assamese community.
  • Headed by retired High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma and including members of the legal fraternity, retired civil servants, scholars, journalists and AASU office-bearers, the committee was asked to fast-track its report.

What has it recommended?

  • Its brief was to define the “Assamese people” and suggest measures for the safeguard of their rights.
  • The definition of “Assamese people” has been a subject of discussion for decades.
  • The committee has proposed that the following be considered Assamese people for the purpose of Clause 6:

All citizens of India who are part of:

  • Assamese community, residing in the Territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
  • Any indigenous tribal community of Assam residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
  • Any other indigenous community of Assam residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
  • All other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; and
  • Descendants of the above categories

Why 1951?

  • During the Assam agitation, the demand was for detection and deportation of migrants who had illegally entered Assam after 1951.
  • The Assam Accord, however, set the cutoff at March 24, 1971. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) was updated based on this cutoff.
  • Clause 6 is meant to give the Assamese people certain safeguards, which would not be available to migrants between 1951 and 1971.
  • If the recommendation is accepted, those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 would be Indian citizens under the Assam Accord and NRC, but they would not be eligible for safeguards meant for “Assamese people”.
  • The clause seeks to guarantee constitutional safeguards for the Assamese people.

ST status

  • The State government has also not been able to collect data on six communities demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
  • The data being collected include the population of each of the six communities — Chutiya, Koch-Rajbongshi, Matak, Moran, Tai-Ahom and ‘Tea Tribes’