Barak Valley: Cong’s anti-CAA stance may hurt it; BJP’s worry is Assam Accord
Bengalis account for over 80% of the population in Assam’s Barak Valley, which has a history of migration from what is now Bangladesh
Bengalis account for over 80% of the population in Assam’s Barak Valley, which has a history of migration from what is now Bangladesh. Given its demographics, both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress are struggling with their stands on implementation of the 1985 Assam Accord and Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The accord provided for the deportation of all refugees and migrants, who have entered Assam after March 25, 1971. The CAA, which seeks to fast-track the citizenship process for non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, extends the deadline until December 31, 2014. The CAA triggered protests elsewhere in Assam amid fears that it could dilute the accord and lead to a fresh influx of Bangladeshi Hindus.
The BJP has called the passage of CAA a victory. But the party has in Barak Valley struggled with its stand on the implementation of the accord signed after a 6-year agitation against undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh. The accord’s clause 6 especially is unpopular in the Barak Valley as it assures several safeguards in jobs, representation for the Assamese people. The BJP has said it is committed to the implementation of the clause.
The Congress in Barak Valley, which sends 15 lawmakers to the 126-member Assam assembly, has a disadvantage over its stand on CAA. The party has guaranteed the legislation would not be implemented in Assam if it returns to power. Many Bengalis in Barak Valley support CAA as it would ensure citizenship for Bangladeshi Hindus.
Congress leader Sushmita Dev, who has been a Parliament member from Silchar, said in Barak Valley, they have seen the struggle of victims of partition. “...we know what it means to be a migrant. I am in favour of such a law, but this act [CAA] is not capable of granting citizenship to anyone. I would support it with some amendments, especially if it includes Muslims.”
Congress’s Assam in-charge, Jitendra Singh. who visited Silchar last week, said, “Our stand on this act is same in both the [Assam] valleys. As [Congress leader] Rahul Gandhi has already announced, we are not going to implement CAA in Assam if voted to power.”
Rajdeep Roy, who is the BJP’s Parliament member from Silchar, said the Congress should learn a bit more about Indian laws. “Citizenship is a central issue, and the state government cannot scrap a law passed in [Parliament].”
Roy ducked a question on Sunday whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will talk about the accord when he campaigns in the region on March 18.
A high-level committee constituted for recommendations on the implementation of clause-6 did not include any representatives from Barak Valley and drew much criticism. The recommendations are yet to be implemented and suggest safeguards in form of reservation for indigenous Assamese. There is no clarity on whether the Bengali community will be considered an indigenous group.