In a bid to pacify angry protesters against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a committee appointed by the Union Home Ministry has suggested setting 1951 as the cut-off year for defining the indigenous people of Assam and introducing an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to restrict the flow of outsiders into the state.
“The report has been finalised. It will be submitted to the Union Home Minister this week itself,” an official said.
Assam has been on edge ever since the Union government notified the CAA. The committee’s report now lays down a road map for the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, a provision aimed at “protecting, preserving and promoting the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.
The members of the committee have unanimously recommended that those who resided in Assam in 1951 as well as their descendants, irrespective of community, caste, language, religion and heritage, be considered as indigenous people of the state. It has also suggested that the ILP regime be introduced in Assam to prevent the unregulated entry of outsiders.
The ILP makes it mandatory for outsiders to take permission from the authorities before entering areas under its control.
The ILP, notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation-1873, has already been operational in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram for years now. It was extended to Manipur in December 2019 following an uproar over the CAA.
To protect the rights of the resident Assamese, the committee has also suggested reservation of seats — extending to 67 per cent — for indigenous people in the Assam assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies of the state.
“In case of reservation of seats in the Assam Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the state, all members — except three — have suggested that 67 per cent seats be reserved for the indigenous people. The remaining three members suggested that the reservation in legislative bodies be 100 per cent,” a senior functionary told NDTV, adding that no member issued a dissenting note on the matter.
In addition to the 67 per cent reservation for the indigenous people, 16 per cent will also be set aside for those from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. “So, effectively, the reservation will go up to 80 per cent if it is accepted,” another officer said. For state government jobs, the committee has recommended 80 per cent reservation for locals.
A number of other recommendations were also made for the protection and growth of Assamese as well as other indigenous languages. “The committee’s job is over. After its formal submission, the central government can either modify, reject or implement (the report) in toto,” the source said.
Sources said that the 13-member panel, headed by Justice (Retd) Biplab Kumar Sharma, finalised its report last week. They have now sought an appointment with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
The committee was set up in July 2019 as per Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord, which envisages constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
Amit Shah had dwelled on the subject during a debate on the CAA in the Rajya Sabha. “In 1985, the Assam Accord happened. There is a provision in Clause 6 to protect the indigenous culture of the state. From 1985 to 2014, the committee was not constituted for Clause 6,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an Assam rally on February 7 that the centre will work expeditiously to implement Clause 6 once the high-powered committee submits its report.