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The Union Cabinet cleared a proposal to set up a high-level committee to look into the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985 since clause 6 wasn’t fully implemented. The move came at a time when the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was being updated and the Centre was trying to introduce a contentious Bill on citizenship. Clause 6, Assam Accord: Fine line between ‘Indian citizen’ and ‘Assamese’ Does the Citizenship (amendment) bill defeat the purpose of NRC? Assam is in the throes of violence yet again over citizenship. The government at the Centre brought in an amendment that will effectively grant citizenship to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh. Citizenship has been the biggest pain point of Assam's political and social life during the past several decades. Last year, the first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) kicked up a storm, as over 3 million people were said to have been left out of the roster. The Citizenship bill and NRC is not one and the same thing. Much of the discourse has been seen to have confused one with the other. Here, we take a look at the two and how they overlap. Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 The Bill seeks to facilitate acquisition of citizenship by six identified minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who came to India before December 31, 2014. • Migrants from these communities were earlier given protection against legal action in the years 2015 & 2016 and long term visa provision was made for them. • Citizenship will be given to them only after due scrutiny and recommendation of district authorities and the State Government. • The minimum residency period for citizenship is being reduced from existing 12 years under the present law to 7 years. • The law will not be confined to the state of Assam but will also provide relief to persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Madhya Pradesh. • The beneficiaries of Citizenship Amendment Bill can reside in any state of the country and the burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Whether differentiating on grounds of religion is a violation of Article 14? The Bill provides that illegal migrants belonging to specific minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan will not be treated as illegal migrants under the Act, making them eligible for Indian citizenship. These minority communities are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. This implies that illegal migrants from these countries who are Muslims, other minorities who do not belong to the above groups (eg. Jews), or Atheists who do not identify with a religious group will not be eligible for citizenship. The question is whether this provision violates the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution because it provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their religion. Article 14 guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners. It only permits laws to differentiate between groups of people if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill does not explain the rationale behind differentiating between illegal migrants on the basis of the religion they belong to. National Register of Citizens NRC is a roster of all those who settled in Assam up to the midnight of March 24, 1971. In 1978-79, rapid increase in the number of Muslims in electoral rolls was spotted, which led to agitation followed against illegal migrants from Bangladesh. This culminated with the signing of an agreement called the Assam Accord. The Assam Accord mandated that those who settled in the state after the cutoff date of March 24, 1971 would be weeded out and stripped of citizenship rights. Over the next few decades the NRC was remained stalled until the Supreme Court intervened. The apex court ordered the state government to update the NRC by a deadline and monitored its progress. Subsequently, the first draft of the roster was published on 30 July, 2018. What are the challenges faced due the contradiction of the provisions of the Assam Accord and Citizenship amendment bill? The general sentiment in Assam with respect to the bill has been that it will defeat the purpose of the NRC. The perverse decision of the Centre to ram through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 against the wishes of the people of Assam will result in the migration of millions of Bangladeshi Hindus to Assam. According to the sources, the Centre is adopting double standards with respect to its pre-poll promise of making Bangladeshis pack their bags and leave. The bill violates the Assam Accord and is anti-indigenous people legislation. Clause 6 of the Assam Accord Part of the Assam Accord that came at the culmination of a movement against immigration from Bangladesh, Clause 6 reads: “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”. • For recognition as citizens, the Accord sets March 24, 1971 as the cutoff. Therefore Clause 6 was inserted to safeguard the socio-political rights and culture of the “indigenous people of Assam”. • In order to cool temper ruffled by the bill, the Centre has set up a panel to implement the clause and constitutionalise it. • The committee to examine the effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and look into awarding reservations in employment under the government of Assam for the Assamese people. Who are the “indigenous people” as described by Mahanta, or “Assamese people” as mentioned in Clause 6? Most stakeholders agree that the NRC of 1951 should be taken as the cutoff for defining “Assamese people” eligible for the proposed safeguards. Those who came in between 1951 and 1971 are Indian citizens, but not indigenous people. According to a source, 1951 cutoff was the conclusion reached by a sub-committee constituted in 1998 headed by G K Pillai, then Joint Secretary (Northeast) in the Home Ministry. The 1951 NRC as the basis for defining “Assamese people” was also recommended in a report prepared by former Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi following consultation with 53 organisations representing various communities. Why is Clause 6 significant, especially in the context of the NRC and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016? Would that not be different from the cutoff for the ongoing NRC update? The update is based on March 24, 1971, which defines citizenship. Clause 6 relates to “Assamese people”. Should 1951 be accepted as the cutoff, it would imply that those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 would be Indian citizens, but would not be eligible for safeguards meant for “Assamese people”. What are these safeguards? Different opinions: 1. Mahanta views “safeguards” as reservation of electoral seats, and land and political rights. 2. AASU’s Bhattacharya says that apart from these, safeguards should also include rights over natural resources and protection of culture of the indigenous people. A Supreme Court advocate and convener of a forum against infiltration, says “Legislation should be enacted to ensure that mere citizenship is not enough and one needs to be a citizen in or prior to 1951 to purchase land. Similar laws should be put in place for jobs.” He cited the examples of Arunachal Pradesh which entrusts rights over natural resources on the basis of ethnic community, and Manipur which last year passed a Bill to define “Manipuri people” with 1951 as cutoff. Was there no movement on the clause until now? In an order in 1998, the Home Ministry noted that AASU and the Assam government had submitted “a number of proposals in furtherance” of Clause 6. Although some steps have been taken in the past to fulfill the commitment given in this regard, state government and AASU have repeatedly stated that this clause remains to be implemented fully. The Assam government website, however, describes a number of steps as part of the implementation of Clause 6 —including cultural centres and film studios; financial assistance to historical monuments. (Vaishnavite monasteries). In 1998, the Home Ministry set up the sub-committee under G K Pillai; in 2006, the state government set up a committee to help define “Assamese”; in 2011, it constituted a Cabinet sub-committee to deal with Clause 6. How has the new move been received? While the Assam government and state BJP have welcomed it, the AASU has described it as an effort to mislead people before pushing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill, which proposes to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from three countries including Bangladesh, has divided residents of Brahmaputra Valley (mostly anti-Bill) and Barak Valley (pro-Bill). On the one hand, it is like killing the Assam Accord by bringing in the Bill, and on the other, they are making announcements for implementing Clause 6. And on the other hand, citizenship amendment bill introduced by the parliament to makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. Though the bill has been rejected on the ground of its irrelevant character, so now the question is whether this step has resolved the issue of illegal migrants or not. Way forward: • The provisions of these three acts should aligned in such a way that they should not contradict each other. • After rejection of citizenship amendment bill, the government should focus on rebuilding the secular fabric of the country. • NRC should be conducted on the line of provisions of Assam Accord. New Appointments Sanjay Jain & K M Nataraj Additional Solicitor General’s of India Ajai Kumar Interim CEO of Yes Bank till the new CEO Ravneet Gill joins the lender. Bhagwant Mann Chief of AAPs Punjab unit Ravneet Gill MD & CEO of Private sector lender Yes Bank. 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Justice AK Sikri Executive Chairman of NALSA Saurabh Kumar Director General of Ordnance Factories (DGOF) and chairman of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). Kumar Rajesh Chandra Director General of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) Chandramouli Ramanathan Controller and ASG William Barr US Attorney General Hina Jaiswal IAFs first woman flight engineer Ashwani Lohani Air India CMD for second time Sushil Chandra Election Commissioner Ruchira Kamboj Ambassador of India to Bhutan Sanjay Kumar Verma next Ambassador of India to the Republic of Marshall Islands Air India CMD Pradeep Singh Kharola Civil Aviation secretary Rishi Kumar Shukla Director of CBI Pranav R Mehta President of the Global Solar Council