As anticipated, the Assam Assembly found the question of defining ‘Assamese’ so thorny that the budget session has ended with pandemonium. Or was it all a cynically orchestrated exercise with legislators and parties playing to their votebanks? Be as it may, Speaker Prab Kumar Gogoi’s two-page report, seeking to thresh out the ‘Assamese’ definition issue, at least served to unmask the ruling Congress by forcing it to take a stand. It is clear the Congress and AIUDF are on the same page, with both parties vociferously denouncing the Speaker’s considered report as his ‘persol opinion’. And what is it the two parties have found so objectioble in the report? It is the suggestion that if Clause 6 of Assam Accord regarding constitutiol safeguard is to be implemented, then ‘1951 has to be taken as the base year and 1951 NRC as the basis’. This is because in the 1951 census, the indigenous Assamese were defined as ‘belonging to the State of Assam and speaking the Assamese language or any tribal dialect of Assam, or in the case of Cachar, the language of the region’. Kudos to the Speaker for taking such a clear, unequivocal stand after marathon parleys with 53 ethnic, literary and student organizations of the State. It is almost certain that the Congress government will reject the Speaker’s report or put it in cold storage, with Parliamentary Affairs minister Rockybul Hussain piously commenting that the government will fulfill its responsibility of defining ‘Assamese’ and act accordingly ‘by taking everyone along’. So what has prevented three successive Congress governments in the last 14 years from doing so? Expressing his resolve to submit the report to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the Speaker has significantly commented that ‘the water has been separated from the milk’. Voters will now be able to make up their minds too — about who are on the side of illegal foreign tiols, and who are not.
State Congress president Anjan Dutta and some Congress MLAs have denounced the Speaker’s report by saying that while he consulted sundry organisations, he did not take the people’s representatives in the House into confidence. But a recollection of what transpired in the Assembly in the last few days will prove this argument specious. When AGP legislator Phani Bhushan Chowdhury’s question rocked the Assembly over the ‘Assamese’ definition issue, did not the Speaker announce that he would try to resolve the issue by talking to all stakeholders? And did not the House then give its consent? Some of the parleys that followed were attended by Assam Accord Implementation minister Bhumidhar Barman himself. So the allegation that the Speaker was acting on some persol initiative while keeping the House in the dark — simply does not hold water. It is quite apparent that the Congress and the AIUDF do not want ‘Assamese’ to be defined because they do not want the illegal influx problem to be solved. After all, this is the issue that keeps their electoral pots boiling. So these two parties are dead set against any constitutiol safeguards, particularly seat reservation, for the indigenous peoples of Assam. The successive Congress governments in Delhi and Dispur have done their best to bury the Assam Accord which the party had signed three decades back. The problem continues to fester, but seems sadly on its way to a ‘fil solution’ as in Tripura — complete eclipse of the indigenous people with immigrants taking over in all spheres. In his deliberations, the Speaker has gone into the observations made by the Supreme Court and the Gauhati High Court over the illegal influx issue. It is to his great credit that he has taken into account the fear and anger of the indigenous peoples of the State, facing demographic extinction in the not too distant future.