Turning a deaf ear to the large-scale protests going on in Assam and other parts of the North East, the BJP Government has cleared all paths for the implementation of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). On the morning of Wednesday, December 4, the Union Cabinet passed the CAB in their meeting and will place the bill in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on December 9 and 10 respectively.
Since the winter session of the parliament began, people across Assam and other places in the North East have been vehemently protesting against the bill. The CAB has faced outright rejection in all over the North East. At the national level too, the bill has been rejected by the left, democratic sections.
As the winter session of the parliament started people feared that the BJP government at the helm of it will try to pass the bill, and rightly so. Himanta Biswa Sarma (HBS), one of the new found and staunch advocates of BJP’s Hindutva agenda and also a minister of the BJP led Assam government made several statements in favor of the CAB. HBS has time and again tried to polarise people on the basis of religion. He has said several times that Muslim migrants are the greatest threat to the people of Assam and to fight them we need the Hindu migrants and hence the CAB is a necessary tool.
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Recently, BJP has come up with yet another divisive proposal, according to which the areas in North East that have the provision of Inner Land Permit (ILP) and the areas that come under 6th schedule will be barred from the purview of the CAB. Going by it, Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), Karbi Anglong district, Dima Hasao district and some few places will be kept out of the CAB, while many other parts of both Brahmaputra Valley and Barak Valley will come under the bill. This proposal has been met with large-scale protests and rejections.
During the winter session, BJP is desperately trying to assuage various organisations and political parties. The Home Minister met with the representatives of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Bodoland People’s Front (BPF)—both allies of BJP in Assam, All Assam Muslim Students’ Union (AAMSU) and All India United Democratic Front (AIDUF). It is noteworthy that the Congress was also invited to the meeting, but no representatives from the party attended the meeting saying that its position is completely against the CAB and there is nothing left to discuss. While AAMSU and AIUDF declared their opposition to the CAB, BPF and AGP finally extended their support to the bill. Last year, when CAB sparked similar outrages in Assam, AGP withdrew their support from the Assam government, and both Atul Bora and Keshav Mahanta, the two ministers from AGP, resigned. Later, before the Lok Sabha elections, AGP rejoined the alliance.
After the meeting with Home Minister, Atul Bora said to media that Assam has already borne the load of migrants when the base year of citizenship become 1971 in accordance with the Assam Accord. So, if the CAB is passed, Assam will have to take some extra load and that is not a big deal. This position from the AGP leadership has been condemned in Assam.
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On December 3, a meeting was held between the Home Minister and representatives of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP). Samujjal Bhattacharya, AASU adviser, told media that AASU will not accept the CAB in any form. Interestingly, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), the organisation headed by Akhil Gogoi, who has been in staunch opposition of the CAB from the very beginning, was not invited in any of the meetings, and neither were any of the left parties and the Left Democratic Mancha (LDM). LDM and all left parties have unanimously opposed the bill.
Speaking to NewsClick, Ashraful Islam, leader of the SMSS, the student outfit of KMSS, who is spearheading the movement in lower Assam’s Barpeta dand Dhubri districts, said, “Primarily, the CAB is a threat to the secular character of our constitution. If implemented, it will thwart the secular credential and pave the way for RSS-BJP’s Hindu Rashtra. Secondly, CAB will pose grave threat to the communities of Assam, its land, language and its culture. The tribals of Assam, other indigenous communities will be at direct threat because of the bill. At a time when Amit Shah is proposing a nationwide NRC, efforts to get the CAB passed before it reveals the motives of the BJP. It wants to establish that Muslims are not the natural citizens of this country and if they want to stay, they will have to stay as second grade citizens. This is also what the theory of a Hindu Rashtra says. We cannot let the CAB come into place at any cost.”
While every corner of Assam has expressed its opposition to the bill, the student community has taken extra steps during the ongoing season of semester exams. Three major universities in the Brahmaputra valley, the Gauhati University, Cotton University and Dibrugarh University have organised huge protest marches and torch light rallies against the CAB. The Cotton University Students’ Union has taken a resolution that anyone who supports the CAB will face “no-entry” in the campus.
Rahul Bordoloi, the general secretary of Cotton University Students’ Union, told NewsClick, “We will fight till the end. The CAB cannot have any place in Assam and elsewhere. It will destroy the social fabric of Assam. It will not only pose grave threats to the indigenous communities here, their culture and language, but also their survival. Moreover, how can we imagine a bill like the CAB in a secular country like India? The CAB will destroy the secular ethos bestowed in the preamble of our constitution and lead to the establishment of the Hindu Rashtra of RSS’s dream. From the very beginning, we have been opposing the Hindutva politics of the RSS and BJP. It is a threat to the diversity that India has and that we all celebrate.”
Rahul said that after the huge torch rally organised by the Cotton community on November 30, there are plans of protests in the line. On Wednesday, students wrote letters addressing the PM and a rally will be held again on December 6.
NewsClick also talked to Amlan Deuri, the former general secretary of Cotton. He said that the situation today must be similar to that of the people during the Assam Movement back in 1980s. Amlan said that now that the Union Cabinet has given green signal to the bill, the situation in Assam will become more volatile. “The student community has already declared an all-out rejection of the CAB and very shortly, people from all spheres of the society will come and join them, especially those who have not come out on the streets yet. The CAB will not only disturb the delicate social balance in Assam and threaten the existence of different communities, but also negate the secular credentials of the constitutions. This is the first step of the Hindu Rashtra that RSS and BJP always propagate.”