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Assam gov’t dodgy about Assam Accord, NRC?

Submission before state assembly replete with inconsistencies. Is this abuse of privilege, an attempt at deliberate obfuscation or just carelessness?

Deborah Grey 07 Sep 2020

Assam NRC

On August 31, 2020, the Government of Assam made a detailed submission before the State Assembly giving details of various steps undertaken to implement the Assam Accord. The submission was made on behalf of the Government of Assam by Chandra Mohan Patowary who is the Cabinet Minister of Transport, Industry & Commerce, Parliamentary Affairs and SEED, in response to questions raised by MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi. However, there are three rather curious elements of this submission that require further scrutiny.

Acceptance of NRC final list figures published on August 31, 2019

It is noteworthy that while listing steps taken to implement the Assam Accord, the Assam state government submits that the Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal who is also the Minister-in-charge of Assam Accord Implementation had visited the office of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to oversee progress of NRC updation work. Just after this the government’s official submission says, “After disposal of all Claims and Objections and proceeding under Clause 4(3), final NRC was published on 31.08.2019 wherein 3,11,04,811 number of persons were found eligible for inclusion leaving out 19,22,851 number of persons including those who did not submit Claims.”

By including this data in its official submission, the Assam Government has admitted that it has accepted these figures. However, the same government went to the Supreme Court last year demanding 20 percent reverification of results in districts adjoining the Bangladesh border and 10 percent in other parts of the state. While the SC had not accepted the request last year, the state government and even organisations like the All Assam Students Union (AASU) are planning to approach the SC afresh with the request for reverification.

In fact, Chandramohan Potowary reportedly told the Assembly, “We had given an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that there should be re-verification of 20% included names in the districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the rest of the districts,” adding, “We need a re-verification because people of Assam want a correct NRC.” Thus, their stand is at odds with their own written submission.

Interestingly, as the NRC was a Supreme Court monitored process, the Registrar General was to issue notification accepting the published final NRC, but this notification has not been issued so far.

Mismatch in number of people in Detention Camps

In an annexure to the submission to showcase Action Taken, point 5.5 states, “A total of 425 nos. of persons are lodged in 6 (six) nos. of detention centres in Assam as of 31-01-2020. The detention-wise figures are as follows: Goalpara-98 nos, Kokrajhar-47 nos, Silchar-43 nos, Dibrugarh-14 nos, Jorhat-833 nos and Tezpur-140 nos.”

Now it is impossible for the total number of detainees to be less than the number of detainees in one detention centre. Yet, according to the state government’s submission Jorhat alone has 833 detainees while the total number of detainees in six camps is 425! Now, it is possible that this is just a typo. Basic calculations show that the number of detainees at Jorhat should be 83 and not 833.

But if the government is so careless that it allowed such a blunder to reflect in an official submission, can anything they state be taken seriously? Isn’t this an example of unprofessionalism and outright abuse of privilege given how big a responsibility it is to ensure accuracy of official data that is being released to the public? Or does this show overconfidence on part of a state government that thinks it can get away with anything?

No mention of recommendations of Clause 6 Committee

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord says, “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.” The 14-member high-powered Committee had been constituted in July 2019 and had been given six months to submit its report, which it did in February 2020.

The submission before the state assembly clearly says that “Regarding speedy implementation of Clause 6 of Assam Accord, the Ministry of Home Affairs, North East Division, Government of India have constituted a High Level Committee headed by Justice Biplab Kumar Sarma, former judge, Gauhati High Court, as requested by Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam.” While the state government submits that the Clause 6 Committee had submitted its report containing recommendations February 25, 2020 to the MHA through the Assam Chief Minister, it is silent on the recommendations made by the committee and action taken if any on them.

It is noteworthy that recently some members of the panel including Arunachal Pradesh Advocate General Nilay Dutta and three members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) have released the report independently.

As per the report, what is key to the Committee’s recommendations, are a series of amendments to Article 371 B. The report says, “The Committee is of the opinion that to give full effect to its Recommendations, as stated hereinbelow, several Constitutional and legislative amendments will be necessitated. The existing Article 371-B in the Constitution of India will need to be amended.”

This Article deals with Special provision with respect to the State of Assam and states, “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the President may, by order made with respect to the State of Assam, provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of members of that Assembly elected from the tribal areas specified in Part I of the table appended to paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule and such number of other members of that Assembly as may be specified in the order and for the modifications to be made in the rules of procedure of that Assembly for the constitution and proper functioning of such committee.”

The core proposal by the Committee states, “Assam Accord must be fully implemented in a time bound manner, so as to facilitate detection, deletion and deportation of foreigners in Assam.” It adds, “Prompt and adequate measures to be adopted to completely seal the IndoBangladesh Border in the line of Indo-Pakistan Border.” The report also suggests, “Till deportation of post 1971 stream of declared foreigners is completed, they should be resettled in areas outside the State of Assam, as an interim measure.”

The Committee also states that, “It is felt that complete implementation of all Clauses of Assam Accord especially Clauses 5.1 to 5.9, Clauses 7, 10 and 11 are essential for the safeguards to be provided under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.”

The entire submission before the state assembly on August 31, 2020, may be read here: 

 

Related:

Assam gov’t adamant on NRC reverification
An Expensive Business, RGI Hikes Revised Budget for NRC to Rs 1,602.66 Crore
Cost of defending citizenship post NRC north of Rs 11,000 crores!
EXCLUSIVE! NRC Rejection Slips to be issued only after Covid-19 is brought under control 

 

Assam gov’t dodgy about Assam Accord, NRC?

Submission before state assembly replete with inconsistencies. Is this abuse of privilege, an attempt at deliberate obfuscation or just carelessness?

Assam NRC

On August 31, 2020, the Government of Assam made a detailed submission before the State Assembly giving details of various steps undertaken to implement the Assam Accord. The submission was made on behalf of the Government of Assam by Chandra Mohan Patowary who is the Cabinet Minister of Transport, Industry & Commerce, Parliamentary Affairs and SEED, in response to questions raised by MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi. However, there are three rather curious elements of this submission that require further scrutiny.

Acceptance of NRC final list figures published on August 31, 2019

It is noteworthy that while listing steps taken to implement the Assam Accord, the Assam state government submits that the Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal who is also the Minister-in-charge of Assam Accord Implementation had visited the office of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to oversee progress of NRC updation work. Just after this the government’s official submission says, “After disposal of all Claims and Objections and proceeding under Clause 4(3), final NRC was published on 31.08.2019 wherein 3,11,04,811 number of persons were found eligible for inclusion leaving out 19,22,851 number of persons including those who did not submit Claims.”

By including this data in its official submission, the Assam Government has admitted that it has accepted these figures. However, the same government went to the Supreme Court last year demanding 20 percent reverification of results in districts adjoining the Bangladesh border and 10 percent in other parts of the state. While the SC had not accepted the request last year, the state government and even organisations like the All Assam Students Union (AASU) are planning to approach the SC afresh with the request for reverification.

In fact, Chandramohan Potowary reportedly told the Assembly, “We had given an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that there should be re-verification of 20% included names in the districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the rest of the districts,” adding, “We need a re-verification because people of Assam want a correct NRC.” Thus, their stand is at odds with their own written submission.

Interestingly, as the NRC was a Supreme Court monitored process, the Registrar General was to issue notification accepting the published final NRC, but this notification has not been issued so far.

Mismatch in number of people in Detention Camps

In an annexure to the submission to showcase Action Taken, point 5.5 states, “A total of 425 nos. of persons are lodged in 6 (six) nos. of detention centres in Assam as of 31-01-2020. The detention-wise figures are as follows: Goalpara-98 nos, Kokrajhar-47 nos, Silchar-43 nos, Dibrugarh-14 nos, Jorhat-833 nos and Tezpur-140 nos.”

Now it is impossible for the total number of detainees to be less than the number of detainees in one detention centre. Yet, according to the state government’s submission Jorhat alone has 833 detainees while the total number of detainees in six camps is 425! Now, it is possible that this is just a typo. Basic calculations show that the number of detainees at Jorhat should be 83 and not 833.

But if the government is so careless that it allowed such a blunder to reflect in an official submission, can anything they state be taken seriously? Isn’t this an example of unprofessionalism and outright abuse of privilege given how big a responsibility it is to ensure accuracy of official data that is being released to the public? Or does this show overconfidence on part of a state government that thinks it can get away with anything?

No mention of recommendations of Clause 6 Committee

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord says, “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.” The 14-member high-powered Committee had been constituted in July 2019 and had been given six months to submit its report, which it did in February 2020.

The submission before the state assembly clearly says that “Regarding speedy implementation of Clause 6 of Assam Accord, the Ministry of Home Affairs, North East Division, Government of India have constituted a High Level Committee headed by Justice Biplab Kumar Sarma, former judge, Gauhati High Court, as requested by Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam.” While the state government submits that the Clause 6 Committee had submitted its report containing recommendations February 25, 2020 to the MHA through the Assam Chief Minister, it is silent on the recommendations made by the committee and action taken if any on them.

It is noteworthy that recently some members of the panel including Arunachal Pradesh Advocate General Nilay Dutta and three members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) have released the report independently.

As per the report, what is key to the Committee’s recommendations, are a series of amendments to Article 371 B. The report says, “The Committee is of the opinion that to give full effect to its Recommendations, as stated hereinbelow, several Constitutional and legislative amendments will be necessitated. The existing Article 371-B in the Constitution of India will need to be amended.”

This Article deals with Special provision with respect to the State of Assam and states, “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the President may, by order made with respect to the State of Assam, provide for the constitution and functions of a committee of the Legislative Assembly of the State consisting of members of that Assembly elected from the tribal areas specified in Part I of the table appended to paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule and such number of other members of that Assembly as may be specified in the order and for the modifications to be made in the rules of procedure of that Assembly for the constitution and proper functioning of such committee.”

The core proposal by the Committee states, “Assam Accord must be fully implemented in a time bound manner, so as to facilitate detection, deletion and deportation of foreigners in Assam.” It adds, “Prompt and adequate measures to be adopted to completely seal the IndoBangladesh Border in the line of Indo-Pakistan Border.” The report also suggests, “Till deportation of post 1971 stream of declared foreigners is completed, they should be resettled in areas outside the State of Assam, as an interim measure.”

The Committee also states that, “It is felt that complete implementation of all Clauses of Assam Accord especially Clauses 5.1 to 5.9, Clauses 7, 10 and 11 are essential for the safeguards to be provided under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.”

The entire submission before the state assembly on August 31, 2020, may be read here: 

 

Related:

Assam gov’t adamant on NRC reverification
An Expensive Business, RGI Hikes Revised Budget for NRC to Rs 1,602.66 Crore
Cost of defending citizenship post NRC north of Rs 11,000 crores!
EXCLUSIVE! NRC Rejection Slips to be issued only after Covid-19 is brought under control 

 

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