On February 2, 2021, in response to a series of questions raised by Members of Parliament (MPs) Abdul Khaleque and Pradyut Bordoloi from Assam, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) gave a series of boiler-plate responses and non-answers.
Khaleque and Bordoloi had raised questions about details of the Clause 6 Committee, its functioning, its recommendations and steps that had been taken to implement said recommendations. But in response, the government did a basic “copy-paste” job from the Assam Government website: assamaccord.assam.gov.in
It not only reproduced contents of clauses 6 and 7, it also copy-pasted measures taken way back in 1989 in response to a question about implementation of committee recommendations.
Sample this: “Establishment of an autonomous institution namely Anandaram Borooah Institute of Language Art & Culture Assam (ABILAC) in 1989 with financial assistance from Govt. of Assam. Besides this, the Directorate of Higher Education, Govt. of Assam has been providing annual grants to the Voluntary Organizations for upliftment of the Language, Art and Culture in their respective field.”
This measure was taken in 1989!
The Annexure that lists measures, does not indicate if any of the measures were as per the recommendations of the Clause 6 Committee, or for that matter, what were the recommendations of the Committee.
In fact, when it comes to specific answers, the only information yielded by the government was, “A High Level Committee was constituted to examine the effectiveness of steps taken since 1985 and required to be taken for implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord. As informed by the State Government, the Committee held 36 meetings. The Committee submitted its report to the State Government of Assam. The recommendations are under examination of the State Government.”
There was also no response to the pointed question, “the reasons for submitting the report to the Chief Minister when the committee was formed by Union Home Ministry?”
This appears to suggest that the government is either being evasive, or is not serious at all when it comes to implementation of the recommendations of the Clause 6 Committee.
The entire response by Minister of State in the MHA, G Kishan Reddy may be read here:
In February 2020, the Clause 6 Committee constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had submitted a slew of recommendations pertaining to Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for the interests and culture of 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 just days before the deadline.
SabrangIndia had previously reported on how it appeared that the MHA was distancing itself from the Clause 6 Committee report and recommendations.
This Report of the Committee on Implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord was however not made public at that time. Then, six months later, some members of the panel including Arunachal Pradesh Advocate General Nilay Dutta and three members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) released the report independently.
As per the report, what is key to the Committee’s recommendations is 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.”
SabrangIndia had reported on a meeting that was held at the residence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on September 20, 2020, in which one of the key topics of discussion was the next steps to be taken with respect to the Clause 6 committee report. It was attended by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, State minister and North Eastern Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Joint Secretary (North-east) Satyendra Garg, and Assam Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, among others. They discussed the future course of action on implementation of the Clause 6 report, grant of Scheduled Tribe status to six communities, implementation of the Bodo Accord and the vital NRC issue, among others.
Speaking to media persons after the meeting, Himanta Biswa Sarma said that since the Clause 6 Committee Report has contents that may require legal amendments, the Union Home Minister has instructed the Chief Minister that the State government should have the report examined by legal experts and determine if there is any need for amendments, and then advise the Centre accordingly.