The issue of providing constitutional safeguards for the indigenous populace of the State – something mandated under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985 – continues to hang in balance even after a Central Government-appointed expert panel made recommendations on their implementation. The insincerity of both the Central and State governments on the issue stands exposed, with both dragging their feet on the matter. It is another matter that both swore by the Assam Accord and constitutional safeguards before the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. A powerful minister of the State Government has now gone to the extent of completely negating the issue as ‘being far from the legal reality of the land.’ The minister – known for his bombastic utterances often devoid of reason – would do well to remember that even if there might be legal issues in the implementation, legal remedies are also available for their rectification. If necessary, constitutional amendments can be made to effect the actualization of the recommendations for ensuring a secure socio-political existence of the State’s indigenous people who are in real danger of losing their numerical strength in the face of large-scale infiltration of outsiders, especially illegal Bangladeshi migrants. And for this to take effect, the Centre will have to facilitate constitutional amendments. Did not this BJP-led Central Government facilitate the entry of Hindu Bangladeshi migrants by amending the Constitution recently in spite of its grave, long-term fallouts on the indigenous communities? It should also be borne in mind that the recommendations were made by a panel comprising legal experts who made their observation after a thorough scrutiny of the issues involved. Surely, these people are better placed to analyse the nitty-gritty of the legal issues than the garrulous minister.
The Assam Accord was the outcome of a six-year mass movement against the genuine threat caused by years of illegal cross-border influx from Bangladesh. To trivialize it would amount to belittle a grave issue for the Assamese people. If there are legal hurdles in implementing some of its provisions, the solution would lie in seeking legal and constitutional remedies. There cannot be any reason why constitutional safeguards cannot be provided for an endangered populace in real risk of losing their identity and hold in their own homeland. The all-important exercise of identifying and deporting illegal migrants was rendered more or less a farce for want of sincerity on the part of successive governments. Detection and deportation of illegal migrants is inalienably linked to the enjoyment of political rights and socio-economic privileges by the indigenous people. It is highly imperative, therefore, that the post-1971 migrants are identified and their names deleted from the voters list even when their immediate deportation is not possible. Such an exercise will ensure that illegal migrants do not come to enjoy political rights. Also urgent is the need to prevent transfer of land ownership rights from the hands of the indigenous to outsiders.