Guwahati: Amid massive protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Assam, the BJP-led government has tried to pacify the situation by approving the proposal to notify six communities from the state as Scheduled Tribes (ST).

The Centre on Tuesday approved the proposal to notify six communities of Assam - Koch-Rajbongshis, Tai Ahoms, Morans, Motoks, Chutiyas, and 36 Tea Tribes by granting them designated tribal status.

These communities are at present listed as other backward classes (OBCs).

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) on Monday had cleared the proposal to grant tribal status to six communities from Assam.

Assam sees protests against Citizenship Bill

This is a significant move taken by the Modi government to appease the people of Assam over rising resentment against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Also read: Northeast unites for bandh over Citizenship Bill row; protesters destroy vehicles amid security

All opposing political parties and organisations of the state have continued their protest against the Bill, which is being tabled in Lok Sabha today after the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) had submitted its report on the Bill before the Parliament on Monday.

In protest against the JPC move, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a major ally party of the BJP-led Assam government on Monday had announced to break up the alliance with the saffron party.

It would be a major setback to the BJP if the AGP snaps ties with the BJP coalition government in Assam ahead of the 2019 general elections.

On the other hand, in protest against the Citizenship Bill — which is aimed to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — the North East Students Organisation (NESO), All Assam Students Union (AASU) and 30 other indigenous organisations on Tuesday have called for an 11-hour North East bandh.

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Several Opposition parties like the Congress, All India United Democratic Alliance (AIUDF) and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) have also supported the bandh called against the Bill.

Safeguard rights of ethnic Assamese

Earlier, the Modi government had formed a high-powered committee headed by retired IAS officer MP Bezbaruah to look into the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985.

Assam finance minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma said that it is a historic moment for Assam and the people of the state.

“The formation of the committee is a giant step for the BJP-led Union government. The history of the country has never witnessed the formation of such a high-powered committee to provide a constitutional safeguard to the indigenous people of Assam. This committee has been formed with 100% Assamese people and has been given the liberty to decide the future of Assam and its people,”  Sarma said.

According to the MHA notification, the nine-member committee will examine the effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

  • The committee will hold discussions with various stakeholders including social organisations, legal and constitutional experts, eminent persons from the field of art, culture and literature, conservationists, economists, linguists, and sociologists.
  • The committee will assess the appropriate level of reservation of seats in the Assam Legislative Assembly and local bodies for the Assamese people.
  • The committee will also suggest measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam.
  • It will also recommend the appropriate level of reservations in employment under the state government for Assamese people.
  • The committee may suggest any other measures as required to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people. 
  • The committee, which includes retired IAS officer Subhash Das, former president of Assam Sahitya Sabha Dr Nagen Saikia, former editor Dhiren Bezbaruah, Assam attorney general Ramesh Borpatragohain, educationalist Dr Mukuna Rajbangshi, former president of Assam Sahitya Sabha Rongbong Terang, joint secretary of MHA and a representative of AASU, will submit its report within six months.

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At a time when Assam’s political turmoil was at its peak with massive protests against the Citizenship Bill, the Modi government has offered to subdue the situation by forming a high-powered committee with 100% Assamese people to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. To add to this, they also approved the proposal to notify six communities of Assam to grant ST status today.