Faced with protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Assam cabinet on Saturday took a number of feel-good decisions that the government claimed was part of its vision to ensure all-round development in the state. Critics, however, termed them as nothing more than knee-jerk reactions aimed at appeasing agitators.
The foremost decision -- as announced by cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to the press -- was to bring a legislation to ensure that land rights are reserved for the indigenous people. Once implemented, only they can buy or sell land in Assam.
The cabinet also resolved to urge the centre to amend Article 345 so as to make Assamese the state language. However, it allows for Barak Valley, BTAD region and other hill districts with their own second languages to be exempted from this.
In the next assembly session, the government also plans bring a legislation to make Assamese a compulsory subject up to Class 10 in all schools. However, the aforementioned exemptions will be made in this case too.
The legislation will be passed in the next session in February and elections to these autonomous councils will held in May.
In another decision, the cabinet announced that it will establish the Sati Sadhani State University in Golaghat and observe April 7 as Sati Sadhani Divas to mark the birth anniversary of Sati Sadhani, queen of the Chutia community. It also said that Bajali will be declared as a new district with its headquarters in Pathsala, and Rs 500 crore will be given to the Moran, Motok, Chutia and Ahom communities for developmental purposes.
The government also decided to ask the centre to confer constitutional status on six tribal autonomous councils. While the Koch Rajbangshi community will get the Kamatapur Autonomous Council, the Moran and Matok communities will get separate autonomous councils in places they inhabit.
Members of the Koch Rajbangshi, Tai Ahom and Chutia communities will be provided reservation in all universities, besides medical, engineering, veterinary and agriculture colleges. This will be in addition to reservations they get under the Other Backward Classes category.
In another decision, the cabinet said it will provide reservations to members of the tea workers community at all general colleges and universities across the state and enhance the allocation for the tea welfare ministry by 100 per cent. In more sops for tea workers, it decided to set up 100 new schools in tea garden areas within 90 days and enhance the daily wage of those employed in Brahmaputra Valley from Rs 115 to Rs 145.
Other decisions taken by the cabinet included appealing to the centre to conclude the Bodo Peace Accord at the earliest; bringing a new legislation penalising the selling or buying of heritage areas; and establishing two new medical colleges in the Biswanath and Sivasagar-Charaideo regions.
Thousands of women took out protests across Assam on Saturday, saying that nothing short of scrapping the controversial citizenship law can make them stop agitating. People in the Northeast are opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act because they believe that it will undermine the Assam Accord of 1985, throwing open the floodgates for illegal migrants from neighbouring countries.