ASSAMESE DEFINITION: Indigenous Assamese have to be defined on 1951 NRC basis, notes Speaker’s report: AGP, BJP, BPF welcome initiative
The ruling Congress and the AIUDF on Tuesday stymied Speaker Pranab Kumar Gogoi’s initiative to facilitate the State government in defining the term ‘Assamese’ as they blocked tabling of the report prepared after consulting 53 cultural, student and ethnic organizations, describing it as the Speaker’s “personal views”.
The legislators of the Congress and AIUDF took umbrage that the Speaker did not consult the MLAs while preparing the report and that “under no rule, can such a report be tabled in the House.”
However, the AGP, BJP and BPF welcomed the Speaker’s initiative and insisted that the report cannot be termed as a “personal view.”
The Speaker today tabled his two-page report compiled after a three-week exercise during which 53 organizations, including Xahitya Xabhas, students organizations and ethnic groups were consulted.
The report noted that in the 1951 Census, the indigenous Assamese were defined as – “Indigenous person of Assam means a person belonging to the State of Assam and speaking the Assamese language or any tribal dialect of Assam, or in the case of Assam, the language of the region.”
“After considering all aspects, I am of the opinion that to implement the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord (constitutional safeguard), we need a definition for indigenous Assamese. That is why we have to take 1951 as the base year and the 1951 NRC as the basis,” the Speaker noted, asking the State government to look into the report for taking necessary steps.
The Speaker then handed over the report to the deputy leader of the House Dr Bhumidhar Barman as the Chief Minister was not present. However, Congress MLA Ardhendu Kumar Dey then got up from his seat, took the report from Dr Barman’s table and returned it to the Speaker’s desk.
“The Speaker did not discuss the matter with the MLAs. Our views should have been taken before preparing such a report,” Dey said.
AIUDF MLA Abdur Rahim Khan took an indirect jibe at the Speaker and said “Like all MLAs even he should follow the House rules… Under what rule was the table laid in the House? We do not support it. It will complicate the ongoing process of updating the NRC,” Khan said.
AGP’s Phani Bhusan Choudhury interrupted and supporting the Speaker’s initiative, said his party welcomes the move. “Nothing had moved in the last thirty years. The Speaker has our full support,” Choudhury said.
AGP’s PK Mahanta said the initiative was in the greater interest of the Assamese people and the House should support it.
While AGP MLA Padma Hazarika felt that “the hands and feet of the Speaker were tied”, his party colleague Keshav Mahanta insisted that the report be sent to the Chief Minister not as a “personal opinion” but as “a report from the Speaker.”
BJP’s Manoranjan Das also described the Speaker’s move as a “good initiative” and claimed that “certain quarters are intentionally opposing it.” BPF’s Kamal Singh Narzary also supported the Speaker’s move.
However, Congress MLA Siddique Ahmed demanded that the report be withdrawn and it did not have the consent of the legislators.
“It (the report) is the Speaker’s personal opinion,” said Congress MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purukayastha.
Purukayastha and Goutam Roy suggested that the report be tabled in the House in the next session through a “proper device”.
According to senior Congress legislator Abdul Muhim Mazumdar, to accept a report in the House, there has to be a debate on it.
Parliamentary Affairs minister Rockybul Hussain also said it was a “personal opinion” of the Speaker and not that of the government. “The State government has the responsibility to define ‘Assamese’ and will act accordingly, taking all people along,” the minister said
Dubbing the report as a “personal initiative”, Congress legislator and APCC president Anjan Dutta said his party does not know about it and as such cannot accept it. “We won’t accept any personal views,” he added.
Despite having lost support from his own party MLAs, Speaker Pranab Kumar Gogoi remained unfazed and said he will send the report to the Chief Minister. “My duty is to send it. I will send it. It is up to the Chief Minister how to take it. I do not have the authority to give a definition. I just made a proposal to facilitate the State government to frame a definition. It is up to the government what it wants to do with the report,” he said. “It was an honest attempt on my part. I do not hanker for any position,” the Speaker added.
When asked about the opposition from Congress legislators, the Speaker said, “It is now clear who wants a definition of Assamese to be framed and who does not. The water has been separated from the milk. The people of Assam have seen it and they will now decide.”
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