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Sonowal hails Centre for panel to safeguard Assamese identity

twitter-logoPTI | January 2, 2019 | Updated 22:23 IST

Guwahati, Jan 2 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Wednesday hailed the Centre's decision to set up a high-level committee to recommend safeguards to protect the identities of the indigenous people of the state. The powerful All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), however, criticised the BJP-led Central government decision and said the forming of another committee was a "gimmick" before the Lok Sabha polls. The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday decided that the panel would recommend how to provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to the indigenous people of Assam, including by reserving seats in the state Assembly. "The decisions taken today by the Central government are historic steps to safeguard and protect the interest and cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people of Assam," Sonowal said in a statement. "This is a New Year's gift to the people of the state from the Central government. The decisions taken by the Union Cabinet will go a long way in securing the future of all indigenous communities of the state," he added. He said the Cabinet decision had secured the interest of indigenous people by resolving the matter, which remained undecided for 35 years due to lack of political will. "The decision taken to set up a high-level committee to implement Clause 6 of Assam Accord will pave way for reserving seats for indigenous people in Assam Legislative Assembly, local bodies and Assam Government jobs," Sonowal said. However, Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, the chief adviser of AASU, which was a signatory to the Assam Accord, termed the decision an attempt to "assuage the feelings of the Assamese community which was hurt due to the move to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955". In a statement, KMSS Adviser Akhil Gogoi too criticised the Union Cabinet decision and said that the people of Assam needed the implementation of Clause 6, not another committee to study the matter and suggest steps. "The Clause has been discussed many times by the Centre. Forming another committee is nothing but a political gimmick before the elections. They just want to mislead the people by false promises and get votes," he said. The Cabinet decision is also targeted to derail the massive protests by all sections of people in Assam against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Gogoi claimed. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and entered India before December 31, 2014. The AASU, KMSS and other socio-political organisations of the North East are vehemently opposing the Bill. On December 31 last year, all amendments moved by the opposition in the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, of the Bill were defeated. Following this, members of KMSS have sat on an indefinite hunger strike from January 1. The stir entered its second day on Wednesday. The bill is likely to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on January 7 as the Winter Session of Parliament will conclude on January 8. PTI TR RG RHL

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