‘CAB is the result of BJP’s divisive policy’: Tarun Gogoi

Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said that the bill is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “divisive policy” of “one nation, one religion”.
Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said that the bill is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “divisive policy”(PTI)
Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said that the bill is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “divisive policy”(PTI)
Updated on Dec 11, 2019 12:27 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAmrita Madhukalya

Former Assam chief minister and senior Congress leader Tarun Gogoi says that support lent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, or CAB, by the Northeastern parties is due to the lack of agency that comes with being a small state. He adds that the bill is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “divisive policy” of “one nation, one religion”. Edited excerpts:

Do you feel that the Congress has been ineffective in taking the lead on resistance to CAB in Assam and at the Centre?

There should ideally be no question of leading in this case; this is a spontaneous movement, and the impact in such cases is different. What we are seeing on the streets of Assam, and other parts of the region today, is an outpouring of the people. Everyone has come together to stand against the Bill.

I do believe that the Congress needs to play an active role and it has, but taking a lead could be counterproductive.

The BJP has pointed to former PM Dr Manmohan Singh’s speech on December 18, 2003, when he spoke as a leader of the Opposition about the need for a CAB.

The law exists; the refugee policy part of the Indian law is to provide asylum to the persecuted. While an applicant needed to be a resident of India for 11 years for naturalisation, it is now 5 years. While the Congress had no religion-based discrimination, the BJP is discriminating against the Muslims. In Pakistan, Ahmediyas are persecuted, but the government is not giving them refuge...The BJP says that we appease the Muslims, but look at all the refugee colonies across the country. Who lives in them; most of them are Hindus. Did we make a noise about it?

While we followed the principles of the Mahatma, Maulana Adbul Kalam Azad, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru, the BJP is following the principles of Jinnah....As a country, we decided to adopt secularism as an ethos while the BJP continued with the RSS’s (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s) agenda of Hindu rashtra.

Several Lok Sabha MPs from the Northeast voted in support of the Bill, including the Naga People’s Front which had left the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA).

All of these parties were opposed to the bill a few months ago. But they must have been managed by the BJP. These are all small states, and perhaps they needed to compromise. Yet, there is agitation in many of these states today, especially in Meghalaya whose CM Conrad Sangma had vehemently opposed the Bill a few months ago. If I wished to, I will not be able to buy land in Nagaland, Mizoram, or Meghalaya now as these are tribal states and as such enjoy a certain amount of protection. But the fear of the immigrant is so deep that there are agitations all across. Several of these states were formed a little after the refugees were accepted by India, so their concerns remain.

Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said that the BJP was voted to power even when it put CAB in its manifesto?

Of course the BJP’s manifesto mentioned the CAB. But there were many other points in the same manifesto -- promise to check price rise, revive the economy, provide jobs and stem black money. They also promised to give Scheduled Tribes status to six communities. But they have chosen to concentrate only on the divisive agenda.

At the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee, we had said that under certain circumstances when a person is suffering persecution, he or she be given asylum, not citizenship. Naturalisation and other criteria could decide later if the person should be declared an Indian or not.

The criticism in Assam is that the CAB will undo the NRC {National Register of Citizens}, by accepting the Hindus left out of it.

Our stand is that the people who were left out of the NRC, and were rightful citizens of India, should be accepted by the BJP. Why is the government resorting to a back-door policy to accept them? People who have documents and have come before 1971 have a right to be included in India. But India is making them declare that they are refugees, and it is making them ask to be included. That is quite unfortunate.

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Monday, January 24, 2022