The Assam Accord, which brought an end to the six-year-long anti-foreigners movement in the state and installed a roadmap for the deportation of illegal Bangladeshis, has been in existence for nearly three decades now.The accord, which will complete its 29 years on Friday, was signed on August 15, 1985, between All Assam Students' Union (Aasu), All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad, the Centre and the state government. In its 29 years of existence, infiltration from Bangladesh has remained a burning issue.
The accord contains clauses which specifically deal with detection and deportation of foreigners. It also includes measures to curb infiltration by setting up fences along the Indo-Bangla border in the state. The accord fixed March 24, 1971, as the cutoff date for identification and deportation of East Pakistani immigrants. This accord also provides for granting of citizenship to those who came into Assam between January 1, 1966 and March 24, 1971, after defranchising for a period of 10 years subject to registration.
On one hand, skepticism has marked perception of its efficacy. On the other, the accord has become a potent tool for politics centering on the issue of influx. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha election, BJP, including Narendra Modi, assured its commitment to fulfilling the accord by stopping influx from Bangladesh. Even the ruling Congress, which is often accused by opposition parties of failing to curb infiltration, came out with a white paper in 2012 on steps taken to implement the accord.
Advocate Hasibur Rahman, a stalwart of the anti-foreigners movement, is skeptical about the accord. "The Assam Accord cannot solve the problem of foreigners in the state. Some leaders benefited by signing the accord, but the issue of foreigners remains vexed." Rahman, an office-bearer of Purbanchaliya Loka Parishad (PLP) in the 1980s, said. PLP, a political outfit actively involved in the anti-foreigners movement, refrained from signing the accord in 1985.
"We explained to people that this accord would not serve the purpose of freeing Assam from foreigners. Till today, the Centre has no policy for the deportation of foreigners. How can we expect the accord to solve the issue?" Rahman wondered.
Organizations like Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (ASM) and National Democratic Front of Boroland (Progressive) are strongly opposed to the accord's cutoff date, claiming it has no constitutional validity. Both ASM and NDFB-P have sought to make 1951 the cutoff year.
Aasu said the accord is a national commitment by the Centre to solve the state's protracted immigrants problem and safeguard the rights of indigenous people. "This national commitment is yet to be fulfilled. All political parties, who have been in power, have failed to implement the accord. Narendra Modi promised a lot before the election. Now, it's time to live up to that promise," Aasu adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said.
The state government recently said, between 1986 and May 31, 2014, 59,512 Bangladeshis have been identified by tribunals and courts. Of this, 2,446 have been expelled. It added that 13,900 Bangladeshis have registered their names with the Foreigners' Regional Registration Offices, 636 have filed writ appeals and 70 have been lodged in detention camps. A total of 42,460 Bangladeshis are absconding, it added.