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Assam Accord is relevant

Bodoland Janajati Suraksha Mancha
Source: Google

One month short of completion of 34 years of signing, the Assam Accord signed on August 15, 1985 by the Union government with the All Assam Students’ Union and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad, is definitely a very important piece of document that no government – whether in Delhi or at Dispur – can discard the dump in the waste-paper basket. Yet, what appears on the ground is that neither Delhi nor Dispur is  inclined to respect it, let alone implementing its various clauses in letter and spirit. While the Congress in Assam had once almost opposed it because then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had dismissed the Congress government of Hiteswar Saikia to pave way for the newly-born Asom Gana Parishad to take over the reins, a section of leaders in the BJP too occasionally display a tendency of rejecting the Assam Accord as outdated and irrelevant. The anchor story on the front page of this newspaper on Monday prompts one to suspect that the present dispensation at Dispur is not much inclined to honour the Assam Accord. A separate office for implementation of the Assam Accord, opened with much fanfare in 2017 is today reportedly under the custody of only one Home Guard personnel. The photographic museum that depicts the entire story of the Assam Movement – and also how a very strong international nexus is continuing its effort to make Jinnah’s dream of converting Assam into a Muslim-majority state – has remained under lock and key for months at a stretch. On the contrary, the present-day politicians and elected representatives of the people, as also most intellectuals and opinion leaders, have also virtually forgotten the contents of the Assam Accord, especially that of Clause 5. This particular clause which has nine sub-clauses very clearly defines who is a foreigner (read illegal migrant from Bangladesh/East Pakistan) as also what to do with them. For instance, Clause 5.1 says – “For purposes of detection and deletion of foreigners, 1.1.1966 shall be the base date and year.” The next sub-clause says –“All persons who came to Assam prior to 1.1.1966, including those amongst them whose names appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections, shall be regularised.” Clause 5.3 on the other hand says –“Foreigners who came to Assam after 1.1.1966 (inclusive) and up to 24th March 1971 shall be detected in accordance with the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.” Now look at what Clause 5.4 says – “Names of foreigners so detected will be deleted from the electoral rolls in force. Such persons will be required to register themselves before the Registration Officers of the respective districts in accordance with the provisions of the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1939.” While Clause 5.5 says that “For this purpose Government of India will undertake suitable strengthening of the governmental machinery,” Clause 5.6 says that “On expiry of a period of ten years following the date of detection, the names of all such persons which have been deleted from the electoral rolls shall be restored.” Clause 5.7 on the other hand says that “All persons who were expelled earlier, but have since re-entered illegally into Assam, shall be expelled.” Most important is Clause 5.8; it says – “Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971 shall continue to be detected, their names deleted (from electoral rolls) and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.” The last sub-clause under Clause 5 was about the notorious IM(DT) Act, which however was finally scrapped by the Supreme Court despite the best efforts of the Congress to retain it, so that it could be used to actually prevent detection of the Bangladeshi infiltrators in Assam. With the monsoon session of the Assam Legislative Assembly scheduled to sit from July 18, it is probably an opportunity for the elected representatives of the people of the state to seek from the government a detailed status of implementation of the Assam Accord, clause by clause, sub-clause by sub-clause. The people of Assam have the right to know names of how many persons who had come to Assam from East Pakistan prior to 1.1.1966 have been regularized since the signing of the Assam Accord. The people of Assam have the right to know names of how many East Pakistanis who came between 1.1.1966 and 25.3.1971 were deleted from the state’s electoral rolls for ten years and then restored. They also have the right to know how many persons who were expelled earlier, but had re-entered illegally, have been detected, detained and expelled. Most importantly, the people also have the right to know how many East Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who had entered Assam illegally after March 25, 1971 have been actually detected, their names deleted from electoral rolls and expelled. The people also have the right to know the names of each of the individuals as categorized by various sub-clauses of Clause 5 of the Assam Accord. The people also have the right to know what progress has been made in implementing other clauses of the Assam Accord – Clause 10 (preventing/evicting encroachment of government lands and lands in tribal belts and blocks) and Clause 11 (strictly enforcing law restricting acquisition of immovable property by illegal migrants) – till date. The people of Assam also have the right to know whether the present government, headed by a person who was instrumental in getting the IM(DT) Act scrapped, has buried the Assam Accord once and for all times to come.