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Original report edited, not diluted: Brahma

The Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam has submitted two reports to the Assam Government. According to committee chairman HS Brahma, certain portions of the original report are subjudice, provocative and biased, while four other members of the committee have urged the government to take the final call. The ball is now at Dispur’s court as to how it would blend the two reports into a single one and chalk out a roadmap to safeguard the identity of the indigenous people of the State

GUWAHATI, May 15: The Sarbananda Sonowal government has constituted a special team to study two sets of reports submitted by the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam and take appropriate follow-up actions to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people of the State.

Sources told The Sentinel that the government has constituted the special team since the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam submitted two different reports, and not one common report, on the same issue. The first report with recommendations was submitted by committee chairman Hari Shankar Brahma. The government has also received the second report from four committee members – Rohini Kumar Barua, Ajay Dutta, Ramesh Borpatragohain and Anil Kumar Bhattacharyya.
“Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has accepted both the reports. The special team will study the two reports in detail and hold deliberations with different stakeholders before taking its final decision. It will not be difficult to implement majority of the recommendations and suggestions offered by the two reports to safeguard the land rights of indigenous people. Barring few issues, the two reports have similar observations on the protection of land rights of indigenous people,” the source said.

Ajay Dutta, a noted social worker, told this reporter that the four members of the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam had to submit the 184-page-long original report to the State government since committee chairman HS Brahma submitted his report by editing and deleting certain portions of the original one.

“Essentially both reports are similar. Since HS Brahma edited and deleted certain portions of the original report prepared by us, we felt the need to send the original one to Dispur so that the government does not remain in dark about some developments posing serious threats to indigenous people’s land rights. The development, however, does not imply that the members have serious differences with HS Brahma in preparing the report,” Dutta said.
Sources said Brahma had deleted and edited Naga aggression on the Assam-Nagaland border, large-scale encroachment of the State’s land and important sites by non-indigenous people and suspected nationals from a particular religious community, involvement of a few IAS officials to illegally transfer agricultural land to non-indigenous people for non-agriculture purposes, and encroachment of huge tea garden lands by a leading private university.

On other hand, Brahma, who is a former Chief Election Commissioner, said he had to delete and edit certain portions of the original report after finding them “subjudice, provocative, communally sensitive and biased towards a particular community”. He refuted the allegations and reports that appeared in a section of the media that the original report was diluted by him. “The essence of the original report has been maintained. I have only corrected, edited and deleted some portions since the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam did not have the mandate to comment on such issues,” Brahma said.

The prime observation made by the Brahma Committee report is that land rights of the indigenous people and their identity are at stake. It says if no effective constitutional, legal and administrative steps, including sealing off of the India-Bangladesh border and detection and deportation of the illegal immigrants are taken, the indigenous people are bound to be reduced to a landless class of people and to become foreigners in their own homeland.
Source said the ball is now at Dispur’s court as to how it would blend the two reports into a single one and chalk out a roadmap to safeguard the identity of the indigenous people of the State.

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Ankur Kalita