As Assam protests over citizenship bill, local BJP netas join force against Modi govt
Guwahati, May 29: In Assam, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is facing a very difficult and delicate situation. On the one hand, the Narendra Modi government at the Centre is hell-bent on passing the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, on the other hand, the BJP government in Assam is facing the wrath of the locals for "bowing in front of the diktats of the saffron party" at the cost of disturbing the demographic structure of the state.
As massive protests against the bill continued across Assam on Monday too, several BJP leaders, including a few MLAs, have openly expressed their opposition to the bill which "threatens the very existence of indigenous people by turning them into minority in their own home state".
The vocal protest by Assam's BJP leaders against the bill is a clear indication of rebellion against the Modi regime by its own people.
Those who are opposing the bill within the BJP said that allowing citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis would pose a threat to the identity of the Assamese people and affect the interest of the indigenous people of the state.
State cultural affairs minister Naba Kumar Doley said the issue was related to people's emotions and the government would not do anything to harm the interests of Assam.
"We cannot accept the Bangladeshis. I will not remain as an MLA if they are allowed to come in. We will force them to leave," BJP MLA Binod Hazarika told at a public meeting in his constituency, Chabua.
Bokajan BJP MLA Numal Momin said the Assamese people could not become a minority community in their own state and that he would always work for the indigenous people of the state.
Other BJP MLAs, including Suren Phukan, Terash Gowalla, Jogen Mohan and Debananda Hazarika, said chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal would not do anything that would impact the interests of Assam and its people.
Lahowal's BJP MLA Rituparna Baruah claimed that there was a "conspiracy" against Sonowal to destabilise his government, but did not elaborate. Reacting to Baruah's claim, state BJP chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass told reporters that he would seek a reply from the MLA to clarify about the "conspiracy".
On the bill, he said, "Let us wait till June 30, when the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be published. We will make our stand public after that."
Replying to a question, he said BJP allies, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bodoland People's Front (BPF), who were opposed to the bill, would not part ways with the saffron party and the Sonowal government would complete its five-year term.
Large-scale protests took place across Assam on Monday against the bill with a number of groups burning the effigies of Prime Minister Modi, Union home minister Rajnath Singh and CM Sonowal, taking out processions and blocking rail and road traffic.
The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) burnt the effigies of Modi, Singh and Sonowal at Nalbari. The members of All Assam Sutia Students' Union blocked the rail traffic at Sarupathar, prompting the police to detain a number of agitators, an official said.
Thousands of slogan-shouting protestors, carrying banners against the bill, marched through towns across the state, before submitting memoranda addressed to the PM to the respective district deputy commissioners.
The agitators shouted slogans refusing to take the "burden of foreigners" and criticised the BJP-led government in the state for supporting the Centre's attempt to amend the bill, which they described as "a destroyer of ethnicity, culture and language of the local indigenous people of Assam".
The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) took out processions at many places across the state against the passage of the bill, which proposes to give citizenship to non-Muslims from neighbouring countries.
AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya told reporters, "There is a continuous people's movement against the bill. Organisations, individuals and various other forums have united as the proposed bill will cause a great damage to Assam's political future and the survival of its indigenous people, their identity, culture and land."
"The Centre should immediately take steps to withdraw the bill from Parliament," he said, claiming that it sought to make fundamental alterations in the citizenship and immigration norms by relaxing the requirements for getting Indian citizenship.
The Asom Yuba Chatra Parishad, the All Boro Students' Union, the All Assam Adivasi Students' Union, the Missing Students' Union, the Gorkha Students' Union, the Sodou Assam Karmachari Parishad, former ULFA members, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, among others, joined the protests.
The All Assam Karbi Students' Union (AAKSU), the All Assam Adivasi Students' Union (AAASU), the All Assam Tea Tribe Students' Association (AATTSA) and the All Assam Karmachari Parishad (AAKP) joined an AASU protest march in Tezpur.
Political observers say as the protesters are determined to stop any attempt to threaten their existence, thus the ongoing agitation against the bill is likely to continue till the Modi government agrees not to amend the original bill of 1955.