The Government of Assam has called for an urgent meeting with the All Assam Students Union (AASU) today. The meeting will deal with 'important matters pertaining to the current situation in the state'. This call comes after the CM Sarbananda Sonowal met with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to discuss issues regarding the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
On Wednesday the CM along with chief secretary T.Y. Das, director-general of police Kuladhar Saikia, special director-general of police (special branch) Pallab Bhattacharya, principal secretary (home) L.S. Changsan, NRC state co-ordinator Prateek Hajela and others attended the meeting. While from the Union government, the Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba, chairman of joint intelligence committee R.N. Ravi, interlocutor for several insurgent groups in the Northeast A.B. Mathur, registrar-general of India Sailesh, and MHA joint secretary (Northeast) Satyendra Garg, attended the meeting. The outcome was a statement from the MHA that no further action would be taken without consulting all stakeholders. It was also mentioned that all efforts would be made to address the concerns of the people of Assam.
The Citizenship Bill has been vociferously opposed in the Assamese dominant Brahmaputra Valley whereas opposition to it is muted in the Bengali-speaking Barak Valley. Various groups and political parties have banded together to oppose the Bill. On Thursday, two organisations opposed to the Bill, the Left Democratic Manch and the Forum Against the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill, met in Guwahati. Along with the Manch a conglomeration of political parties such as the Congress, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), CPI, CPI (M-L), NCP, JDS, LDP, Asom Sangrami Manch, Aam Admi Party, Revolutionary Communist Party, AIUDF and Samajwadi Party attended the meeting. The Forum, however, consists of prominent citizens and public intellectuals from Assam. The two organisations have submitted memorandums to the CM asking him to make his stand on the Bill clear and to convene an emergency session of the Assembly to discuss the matter. The AGP who is an alliance partner of the BJP in Assam has also resolved to raise the issue in the cabinet meeting scheduled today.
What makes it interesting here is that not only does the entire scenario resemble the 1980s, but that a former president of AASU is silent on the issue. Apart from his association with AASU, he also served as the chairman of the North East Students Organisation (NESO), and was a member of the AGP. It is unlikely that his core philosophy regarding Assam has been replaced with Hindutva. However, his silence appears to be dictated by political bosses he does not wish to fall foul of. He has effectively been placed in a catch-22 situation. On one hand, if he speaks out against the Bill he would have to face a backlash from the BJP. On the other hand, his silence will erode his credibility as a champion of Assamese nationalism. What the BJP appears to be finally coming to grips with is that religion takes a back-seat in Northeast politics.