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Panel on Assam holds first meeting; MoS Home Reddy assures full support

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(Eds: Adding details of meeting with Amit Shah) New Delhi, Jul 24 (PTI) A reconstituted high-level committee, set up to assess the quantum of seats to be reserved in the Assam Assembly and local bodies for Assamese people, Wednesday held its first meeting where members suggested the change in the panel's terms of reference so that the possibility of vesting land rights only to indigenous people can be discussed. The members later met Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The Home Minister assured the members that their recommendations will be implemented as early as possible and the panel will have "free-hand" in conducting its deliberations, chief advisor of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, who is part of the panel, told PTI. In its meeting, the members also suggested that issues of reservation of Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam for the indigenous people and in central government jobs should also be brought in its ambit. Bhattacharya said several members have suggested that a time-frame should be fixed for implementation of the recommendations of the committee, which will submit its report within six months. "We want that the issues of reservation of seats in Lok Sabha constituencies, central government jobs and land rights should be part of the terms of reference of the committee," he said. Another member, journalist and political commentator Wasbir Hussain said it was an introductory meeting where people suggested that a representative of the tribal communities should be part of the committee and the spirit of the 1985 Assam Accord should not be diluted while dealing with the Clause 6 of the document. "The members feel that Clause 6 should not be seen in isolation of other issues like land rights for the indigenous people and it should be brought under the ambit of the terms of reference," he said. The committee, headed by former Gauhati High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma, was set up under Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord. Attending the meeting, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said the central government attaches highest importance to the committee and will provide full support to it so that the panel can complete its task without losing any more time. According to Bhattacharya, Shah said the central government was committee to fulfil the Clause 6 in "letter and spirit". "The home minister said the central government will take all necessary steps for the safeguard of the indigenous people of Assam and the committee's recommendations will be implemented quickly," the AASU leader said. According to its mandate, the committee will examine the effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and hold discussions with various stakeholders, including social organisations, legal and constitutional experts, eminent persons from the field of art, culture and literature, conservationists, economists, linguists and sociologists. The new committee will recommend the appropriate level of reservations in employment under the state government for the Assamese people and suggest any other measures as may be necessary to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity and the heritage of the people. The other members of the committee include Advocate General of Assam Ramesh Borpatragohain, Advocate General of Arunachal Pradesh Niloy Dutta, retired IAS officer Subhash Das, former IPS officer Pallav Bhattacharya, retired professor Srishtidhar Dutta, author Sumanta Chaliha, and professor and columnist Jaikanta Sharma. AASU president Dipanka Kumar Nath and general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi are also members of the panel. Joint Secretary (North East) in the Ministry of Home Affairs is the member secretary. PTI ACB ZMN

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