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‘Constitutional safeguards alone can protect locals’

GUWAHATI, June 4: Only constitutional safeguards can give adequate protection to the rights of the indigenous people. And all must ensure that this important step becomes a reality before the next elections. This was stated by Upamanyu Hazarika, the convenor of Prabrajan Virodhi Manch (PVM) here on Monday.

Hazarika questioned the move of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to constitute a committee on the constitutional safeguard issue. This assurance was given to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal after he had met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on May 30.

Hazarika was sceptical that even if the committee was formed, it would go the way of the HS Brahma Committee because it would not have any teeth. “Such a committee will serve no purpose as the primary issues on which safeguards have to be granted are within the domain of the State legislature. The only manner in which indigenous people can avoid becoming a minority under the weight of Bangladeshi infiltration is by reserving land, trade licenses, government employment, and by way of reservation in educational institutions only for those who were citizens of India and residents in Assam in 1951. These subjects of legislation in terms of the constitutional scheme are within the domain of the State legislature and the State government. The Centre has virtually nothing to do with it. By adopting this course of action, the Chief Minister and the State government have made it very clear that they have put the issue in cold storage,” he pointed out.

Coming down heavily on the ruling BJP-AGP alliance for failing to take any concrete steps on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Hazarika added that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has been merely performing the role of a messenger in this regard. Expressing surprise at the non-committal position of Sonowal, Hazarika further said that Sowowal should come out clear on the issue.

Hazarika also appealed to the nationalistic organizations of the State to ensure that their erstwhile leaders remain committed to their mother organization’s commitment in providing protection to the indigenous people. “Before the next elections, we will have to make our elected representatives responsible in order that they take up the issue in all seriousness. The public will also have to play the role of sentinels,” he said, adding: “The social organizations will have to ensure that their leaders do not change their colours after assuming responsible positions in Delhi or Dispur.”