Explained: What is the Assam Accord that is fueling protests in the state?

News:The debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) passed by Parliament has repeatedly flagged the alleged violation of the Assam Accord by the new law.

Facts:

About Assam Accord:

  • The Assam Accord was a Memorandum of Settlement(MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in 1985.
  • The accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam.

What did the accord contains?

Clause 5 of the accord:

  • All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship including the right to vote.
  • The entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
  • Lastly,Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25,1971 shall continue to be detected, deleted and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.

Clause 6 of the accord:

  • Clause 6 of the accord talks about providing constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
  • However,no government has passed any legislation since 1985 to provide constitutional protection to the Assamese people as envisaged under Clause 6.
  • In July,2019 Government of India has constituted a high-level panel to suggest ways to implement Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord.The panel is headed by former Gauhati high court judge Justice Biplab Kumar Sarma.
  • The panel will examine the effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement the clause and to assess the appropriate level of reservation of seats in Assam’s legislative assembly and local bodies for the indigenous people.

How Citizenship bill differs from Assam accord?

  • The amended Citizenship Act has shifted the cut-off date for granting citizenship from 24th of March 1971 to 31st of December 2014.
  • The protesters see this as a move by the Centre to go back on their promise made to protect their Assamese cultural identity.
  • They fear that citizenship bill will lead to lakhs of people from Bangladesh swamping indigenous communities, burdening resources and threatening their language, culture and tradition. 
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