The Accord, The Discord
The Assam Accord, which sought to end a six-year-long agitation against illegal immigrants in Assam, was signed between members of the All Assam Students Union (AASU), and state and central governments just a few hours before Rajiv Gandhi was to deliver the Independence Day address in 1985. Immediately afterwards, the student leaders were catapulted from their hostel rooms into the corridors of power. Their party, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), was voted to power the same year, with Prafulla Kumar Mahanta becoming the youngest ever chief minister of an Indian state.
Key clauses of the Assam Accord remained unimplemented during Mahanta's often controversial tenures (1985-1990, 1996-2001), and through three terms of Congress rule, which ended with the BJP's victory in the state in 2016. Central to the Accord was deportation of those who could not prove their roots in India prior to 24 March 1971. In 2015, the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) based on the 1971 cut-off of the Accord began. The first list was released in December 2017, and did not include 14 million names.
Assam: The Accord, The Discord looks at the making of the Assam Accord and its long shadow on the state, through political gamesmanship between principle players, periods of ULFA and Bodo militancies, and right-wing propaganda that has split the state along communal lines.
Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty is a Delhi-based journalist who covers the North-east for the news website the Wire. Born in Golaghat, Assam, she graduated from the Gauhati University in 1995. She began her journey in journalism in 1996 with the United News of India (UNI), thus breaking the glass ceiling to become the first woman from the North-east to be employed as a journalist in its New Delhi office. Her reportage on the North-east began in The Hindu after she won the Inclusive Media Fellowship of the Centre for Development Studies (CSDS) in 2011 to write a series on the loss of livelihood due to annual erosion in Assam's Majuli island, Asia's largest riverine island, in the Brahmaputra river.
A rare chance to utilise the digital space for news about the North-east from a New Delhi newsroom led her to join Wire. In 2017, she received the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for feature writing.
Her English translation of Sahitya Akademi award winning Assamese writer Rita Chowdhury's novel Mayabritta is slated for publication in 2020.