As tension escalates, BJP MPs rush to allay concerns in Assam
BJP is pulling out all the stops to assure people that the legislation that seeks to give citizenship to “persecuted” minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh is not aimed at targeting anyone or changing demographics in the north-eastern states.Updated: Dec 13, 2019 02:47 IST
Violent protests in Assam have dampened the euphoria over the passage of the contentious Citizens (Amendment) Bill, or CAB, which was cleared by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, compelling the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to rush its MPs from the state to assuage concerns on the ground.
The party is pulling out all the stops to assure people that the legislation that seeks to give citizenship to “persecuted” minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh is not aimed at targeting anyone or changing demographics in the north-eastern states.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the people of Assam that their rights would be protected. The PM tweeted: “The Central Government and I are totally committed to constitutionally safeguard the political, linguistic, cultural and land rights of the Assamese people as per the spirit of Clause 6 [of the Assam Accord]. I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of #CAB.”
He also assured the people that “no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow”.
A senior BJP leader said that most of the MPs from Assam are on their way back to the state, where curfew has been imposed in some areas. The MPs have also been instructed to hold meetings to addresses concerns and fears about the implication of the legislation on the state. The BJP has two MPs in the Rajya Sabha and nine in the Lok Sabha from Assam.
On Wednesday, at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, Modi told the MPs to dispel notions about the implications of CAB; address concerns of their constituents; and spend more time in their constituencies.
The BJP has also been reaching out to the people in the North-east to assuage concerns that CAB will have an impact on their cultural identities or demography. While the Opposition has accused the BJP of rushing the passage of the bill that targets minorities, the party has vehemently defended its move on the grounds that it is in keeping with its ideological commitment to offering help to persecuted Hindus, and other minorities, who have no place other than India to go to.
“The party does not gain anything politically; we are just fulfilling a commitment that we made to the persecuted people from the days of the Jana Sangh,” said Dileep Saikia, BJP MP from Mangaldoi in Assam.
Saikia, who is in Assam, said the administration is taking steps to ensure that law and order is restored and there are no casualties.
“We have clarified that CAB will not be applicable in the states with inner line permits (IPLs) and those areas that come under Schedule Six of the Constitution. However, in the Brahmaputra Valley, there are some concerns. There has been miscommunication over certain issues. There is a fear that 1.2 crore people will come and settle here and change the demography and language of the state,” Saikia said.
His Lok Sabha colleague and MP from Silchar, Rajdeep Roy, said, “What is happening on the ground is politically orchestrated; people from outside Assam have been brought in to create disturbance in the state. In Silchar, for instance, there is no opposition to the passage of the bill.”
He blamed the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front for the stoking protests. “Their political space in the state has shrunk; so they are trying to enter through the backdoor. The students, who are protesting, would probably be unaware of the provisions of the Bill,” Roy said.
Former Assam chief minister and Congress leader Tarun Gogoi said that the situation in Assam is very bad and deteriorating fast. “In spite of the curfew and flag marches, the situation has not improved. The situation is fast deteriorating even today.”
He referred to Modi’s appeal but added it has come too late. “They should have realized much earlier… though he is appealing, he has not given the assurance that the bill will be withdrawn. That assurance has not been given and definitely I do not think it [the appeal] will have a major impact on the agitators or on the people of Assam.”
Gogoi vowed to fight and to take the matter to court. “Suppose we do not get a favourable response, even then we will not wait. We will go to the people’s courts. Ultimately, it is the people’s court in a democracy which is much more important than what you call legal courts. So, the fight is going to be long.”