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A General Definition
ASSAMESE means a language, a culture and all people living in the state called Assam in North East India.
Assamese includes people from plains to tribes on hills, irrespective of any religion.
A Political Definition: by "Assam Tribune"
A consensus on the definition of ‘Assamese people’ continues to elude us even after 22
years of the signing of the Assam Accord. While the need for such a definition may seem
perplexing to many, the fact is that the peculiar situation in Assam — where the indigenous
populace had been under constant threat from infiltrators from Bangladesh for decades —
warranted such a necessity. It is under these circumstances that the Assam Accord sought to
provide constitutional safeguards to the ‘Assamese people.’ However, the search for the ‘
Assamese’ definition created a raging controversy last year, with divided opinions as to who
constitute the ‘Assamese.’ The result is that the issue remains non-conclusive till date.
One would also wonder why the State Government did not take up the matter all these years.
The need of the hour, however, is that all the parties, i.e., the different indigenous
communities and civil society organisations, sit together with the State Government to
hammer out an all-acceptable solution. The prevailing situation – given the unabated influx
from across the border – certainly brooks no delay. Since the definition of ‘Assamese’ is
central to the provision meant for giving constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people
whose existence is under threat from infiltration, all of us must treat the matter in the
urgency it deserves. One possible way could be to change the word ‘Assamese’ with
‘Indigenous’, as many of the indigenous communities have openly expressed their
reservations – whatever may be the reasons — about being covered under the term ‘Assamese.’
Such a move, therefore, deserves consideration to end the impasse. This, however, leaves
out one crucial aspect, that is, what would be the position of the people of non-Assamese
(coming from other States) origin who have made Assam their homeland long back,
assimilating in the process with the greater Assamese society.
historical process of assimilation that has been a novel feature of the Assamese
society, some organisations have suggested to have a cut-off year on the basis of the
National Register of Citizens of 1951. According to this view, persons having their
names in the NRC-1951 and their descendants should be treated as ‘Assamese’ or
‘Indigenous’ people so that they can also come under the ambit of the constitutional
safeguards. The sad irony of the debate over the definition of ‘Assamese’, however,
is that it has laid bare the growing rift in the greater Assamese society, more so
when the testing times demanded that we put up a united front in the face of the grave
danger posed by the unabated cross-border influx.
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