Assam Accord is no panacea, it harmed people: NE watchers

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A Correspondent
New Delhi, August 3: Just as BJP chief Amit Shah has highlighted ‘Rajiv Gandhi-AASU’ Accord of 1985 highlighting the implicit issues with regard National Register of Citizens (NRC) row in Assam, a section of longtime northeast watchers say the document was no panacea and had several lapses.
It has perhaps, harmed Assam more than helping it.
To many, the signing of the accord itself post midnight of August 14-15, 1985 was a typical case of reflection of “a young Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) in hurry”.
The agreement was signed barely a few hours before the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi went for making his maiden speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
“The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) movement was virtually on its last leg……But the centre was in haste. Yet another illustration of how things could be mishandled by Delhi for considerations totally different from ground realities,” says the book ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ penned by journalist Nirendra Dev, who was born and served in Nagaland.
The book has been particularly critical of the manner students leaders led by the likes of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Bhrigu Kumar Phukan were allowed to ‘encash’ the publicity and storm to power with least experience of running the state of affairs. While Mahanta became Chief Minister, Phukan had assumed the post of state’s powerful Home Minister.
“Rajiv Gandhi did not know what sort of leadership he had created for Assam and the people in the state,” says the book published in 2008.
“He (Rajiv Gandhi) also did not realize the futility of electing a bunch of young student leaders, who have shot into fame only through negative means – the agitation – whatsoever may be the cause they stood for,” the book says.
It also says the hurried manner the pact was pushed could be understood that even Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s objections on certain phrases vis-a-vis English language was brushed aside by the then Home Secretary R D Pradhan, who actually signed the paper with AASU president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.
Thanks to the Rajiv-AASU pact more popularly known as the Assam Accord, the governance in Assam passed on to the hands of ‘students leaders’ – who were “novice in the art of running a state”.
In fact, BJP leader and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar’s question on Wednesday, what’s really Congress and Trinamool Congress afraid of was perhaps in reference to “lapses” in the Assam Accord.
After the AGP leadership assumed power, stories of corruption flourished and young ministers also fought over which cushy rooms to occupy, says the book.
Another book also echoes similar sentiments.
“The overriding consideration was that the agitators (student leaders) wanted to get rid of the streets and encashing the goodwill and support that their movement had granted in Assam, come legitimately to office and power at Dispur,” writes Sanjoy Hazarika in ‘Strangers of the Mist’.
According to northeast watchers, the ‘weakness’ in Assam administration in late eighties had actually also led to the emergence of ULFA that had led the state of Assam and other northeastern states into an unprecedented cycle of violence.