Who is an ‘Assamese’? Why it’s Difficult to Define?

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Assam CM said that the legality of the definition of 'Assamese people' was under scrutiny
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Who is an ‘Assamese’? Why it’s Difficult to Define?

Guwahati: The definition of ‘Assamese people’ has been the bone of contention since the signing of the Assam Accord on 13 August, 1985. Over the years, many commissions and committee though have tried to simplify the definition of an ‘Assamese person’; no state government has so far could fix it.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday informed the state assembly house that the state government would soon take steps to define who is an ‘Assamese’ in context with the Assam Accord.

As per the report submitted by a high-level committee formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, the definition of ‘Assamese people’ was all persons residing in the territory of Assam on or before 1 January, 1951, and their descendants.

On March 29, 2022 during the budget session of the state assembly, replying to queries on state government’s steps for settling the issue, the CM said that the legality of the definition of ‘Assamese people’ was under scrutiny.

“The problem is how we are going to set the definition? There are two angles in it. There are people whose forefathers had come to Assam long back and they never left. For generations these people are living here and so ‘emotionally’ they are all Assamese. But here the issue is to find a legal definition keeping the Clause 6 of Assam Accord in concern,” Sarma informed the house.

He assured that the state government would soon resolve the matter. “Like any other problems, this matter is at our government’s priority list and very soon it would be resolved. Discussions are ongoing with stakeholders,” Sarma added.

The inaction of both Centre and state government over the high level committee report had earlier forced the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) to release the confidential report before public alleging that the state government was only sitting idle on it.

As per Clause 6, constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the ‘Assamese people’.

The high level committee had recommended that the tribal, indigenous and all other Indian citizens residing within the territory of Assam as per the First Schedule of the Constitution on or before 1 January, 1951 along with their descendants should be called ‘Assamese’.

Earlier, AASU president Dipanka Kumar Nath had said that the committee had recommended five specific categories to define the ‘Assamese’ keeping in mind the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

The categories were –1) Assamese communities residing in the territory of Assam on or before 1 January, 1951, 2) any indigenous tribal community residing in the territory of Assam on or before 1 January, 1951 3) any other indigenous community residing in the territory of Assam on or before 1 January, 1951, 4) all other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam on or before 1 January, 1951 and descendants of the above categories.

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