Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday tried to allay concerns raised by northeast protesters on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, saying they can rest assured that all their rights will be protected under "Clause 6" of the Assam Accord-1985.
"The central government and I are totally committed to constitutionally safeguard the political, linguistic, cultural and land rights of the Assamese people as per the spirit of Clause 6," he tweeted, even as protests against the controversial legislation mounted across the country's Northeast's region with Assam's Guwahati as its epicentre. By evening, two protesters had been killed in police firing.
Clause 6 is one of the promises made in the Assam Accord, and it deals with preserving the regional identity of people in the state. "Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people," it reads.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and BJP national secretary Ram Madhav also cited the clause to make a similar claim. "I assure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have very categorically stated the centre is committed to implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit to ensure the constitutional safeguard to the people of Assam politically, culturally," news agency ANI quoted Mr Sonowal as saying.
Ram Madhav asked protesters to put their faith in "clause 6" instead of believing rumours. "As we are actively considering the implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord, the people need not worry and fall victim to negative campaigns launched by certain groups. We appeal to the people of Assam to maintain calm, so that all concerns can be addressed proactively by the government," he said.
However, Prafulla Mahanta -- two-time chief minister and the only surviving signatory of the Assam Accord - believes otherwise. "The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a divisive tool that needs to scrapped before it damages the composite culture of the Northeast region," news agency PTI quoted him as saying. "Every nook and corner of Assam is erupting in spontaneous protests against this bill. The people of Assam are determined to defeat this divisive and unconstitutional tool. We will not relent till it is scrapped."
Incidentally, Prafulla Mahanta's party - the Asom Gana Parishad - is allied with the BJP in Assam.