Citizenship Bill fallout: Head of panel on Assam Accord quits, fifth member to withdraw consent citing 'certain developments'

Guwahati/New Delhi: MP Bezbaruah, who was appointed the head of a Centre-nominated committee to assess the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, has declined to be part of it, leaving the nine-member body in the lurch.

Bezbaruah is the fifth member to leave the committee. He has written to the Union Home Ministry in this regard.

The development comes close on the heels of four members — eminent litterateurs Nagen Saikia and Rong Bong Terang along with educationist Mukunda Rajbongshi and the nominee of the influential All Assam Students Union — deciding not to be part of the committee.

The committee was formed on 6 January to assess the quantum of seats to be reserved in the Assam Assembly and in the local bodies of the state for Assamese, besides providing other safeguards.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord states that "constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people".

"I have conveyed to the Home Ministry that it is untenable for me to continue in the committee when the representatives of the civil society refused to be part of the committee. Being the head of a committee, without civil society members, does not make any sense," Bezbaruah said in New Delhi.

The former Union tourism secretary told a local television channel in Guwahati that when he was asked to be a part of the panel, he was "under the impression that we can make some contribution in implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord". "But since then, certain developments have taken place and I find no reason to continue in the committee," he said.

"The committee was for the people of Assam and if they think there is no need for it, there is no point in continuing with it," Bezbaruah said.

"Moreover, the AASU and three other respected members have decided not to be a part of the committee and as such it has become dysfunctional ... The committee has not been accepted by the people and I also do not find any justification to continue," he said.

Saikia and Terang, both former presidents of premier literary organisation Asam Sahitya Sabha and Rajbongshi, decided to opt out of the committee citing reservations about its functioning following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha. The Bill, they said, posed a threat to Assamese culture and identity.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU), which was a signatory to the Assam Accord, also refused to be a part of the committee, saying the "BJP-led government at the Centre formed it just three months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls to seek votes in Assam".

Other members of the committee include former IAS officer Subhas Das, former editor of The Sentinel Dhirendra Nath Bezborua and Assam Advocate General Ramesh Borpatragohain.

The joint secretary in the Home Ministry was nominated as the panel's member secretary.

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Updated Date: Jan 13, 2019 09:25:42 IST

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