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Assam Accord panel chairperson writes to MHA, says committee is ‘defunct’

Bezbarauah’s comments come in the wake of several other members expressing their reservations regarding the committee constituted on 5 January.

New Delhi: Less than a week after the BJP government constituted a panel to look into the efficacy of Clause VI of the Assam Accord, former civil servant M.P. Bezbarauah, who was slotted to head the panel, has written to the Union home ministry that the panel is ‘defunct’.

Bezabaruah was to chair the eight-member panel that would look into the constitutional and legal safeguards that have been put in place to protect the culture and heritage of the ‘Assamese’ people.
Bezbarauah’s comments come in the wake of several members dropping out of the panel due to various reasons, the primary being the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

‘Considering that a number of representatives of the Assamese people have refused to be a part of the panel, I believe my position as chairman is redundant,’ Bezabaruah told ThePrint.

‘This is not a one-man committee, it is defunct without its members,’ he added.

Bezbarauah, however, ruled out his resignation from the panel. ‘The question of resigning does not arise since I never formally took charge of the committee, and no meetings have been held yet,’ he said.

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‘Discrimination against northeast community’

Following the death of Arunachal Pradesh resident Nido Tania in Delhi in 2014, Bezbarauah was appointed by the UPA government to look into the condition of people of the northeast living in different parts of India.

The report, which he submitted in July, painted a grim picture of the ‘the nature and extent of discrimination and attacks against the northeast community’.

Bezbarauah quit his post from the Northeast Council after he realised the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was going to replace him.

A permanent honorary member of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, he also served as Union Tourism Secretary under former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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Voices of dissent

Ever since the 5 January notification, Assam has seen mass protests over the passage of the bill. An AASU-led Assam bandh was organised Tuesday.

ThePrint had earlier reported that former Rajya Sabha MP Nagen Saikia and All Assam Students’ Union had refused to be a part of the panel.

Saikia and the AASU argued that the BJP has violated the spirit of the Assam Accord by passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which will grant citizenship to ‘Bangladeshi-Hindu’ inhabitants living in Assam despite the accord’s cut-off date of 1971.

Former Asom Sahitya Sabha president Rongbong Terang and leading Assamese news daily The Sentinel’s founding editor Dhiren Bezbaruah have expressed reservations, but haven’t cited a reason so far, said a local report.

Speaking to ThePrint, Saikia said he is planning to write to the home secretary to officially register his protest against the formation of this committee.

‘If they (BJP) were serious about the issue at all, they wouldn’t have passed the bill in the Winter Session of the Parliament,’ he said.

‘This government has already murdered clause V of the Assam Accord by passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Without clause V, what is the point of clause VI?’ AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya told ThePrint.