Head of govt nominated panel on Assam quits


New Delhi: Former Union tourism secretary M P Bezbaruah, who was appointed as the head of a government nominated committee to assess the quantum of seats to be reserved in the Assam Assembly for the Assamese, has declined the offer.

Bezbaruah is the fifth member of the high-level panel who has refused to be a part of the committee, which will also assess the quantum of seats to be reserved in the local bodies in Assam for the Assamese people besides providing other safeguards.

“I have conveyed to the Home Ministry that it is untenable for me to continue in the committee when the representatives of the civil society refused to be part of the committee. Being head of a committee, without civil society members, does not make any sense,” Bezbaruah told PTI.

Those who have already quit the panel set up by the home ministry include the two Presidents of the Assam Sahitya Sabha, Nagen Saikia and Rongbong Terang, educationist Mukunda Rajbangshi and a nominee of the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).

The members had refused to be part of the committee, formed on January 6 under Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord, to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which they said posed a threat to Assamese culture and identity.

Others nominated to be a part of the panel included former IAS officer Subhash Das, former editor of The Sentinel Dhirendra Nath Bezboruah and advocate general of Assam Ramesh Borpatragohain. The joint secretary in the Home Ministry was nominated as the member secretary.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, already passed by the Lok Sabha, seeks to grant Indian nationality to people belonging to minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12, even if they don’t possess any proper document.

The facility is available for those who had entered India till December 31, 2014. It was an election promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014. The Assam Accord provides for deportation of anyone, irrespective of religion, who had come to the state after March 24, 1971.