Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Image Courtesy: The Hindu
Guwahati: Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was given charge of the education ministry in a recent reshuffle of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Sarbananda Sonowal government, kicked off his tenure by issuing a warning to school and college teachers against taking part in any protest against government policies. Incidentally, teachers and students are in the forefront for anti-CAA protests that have erupted across the North Eastern region as well as across the country.
Soon after taking charge as education minister, Sarma announced strict action against school and college teachers, such as pay cuts. First, he declared that one day’s salary would be deducted if anyone participates in protests during working days. He also said that the same rule would be applied to everyone, even if they come to meet the minister concerned.
Sarma sent out this warning in a meeting of college principals and teachers in Guwahati on Wednesday, which may have termed as “unprecedented”. The minister went on to add that if any teacher was found to be present in any anti-government meeting or gathering, he or she could be suspended overnight.
Sarma also warned that if someone was found present in any talk show on television channels and said something against the government, they would have to face similar action – of pay cut or possible suspension. A show-cause notice would be served, he said, adding that this applied to all college teachers, as well as college principals.
Sarma, who switched over to BJP from Congress, was in charge of the education department for a quite long time. He has returned to the same portfolio after the anti- Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests have engulfed every sphere of the society in Assam as well as the country.
However, Sarma’s direct threat to teachers is widely being seen as “anti-democratic”. It is known that the ongoing anti-CAA movement in Assam has witnessed huge participation as also leadership by the student community, be it leading universities like Gauhati University, Cotton University, Dibrugarh University, Tezpur University.
At a time, when the there is no sign of anti-CAA protests dying down, Sarma’s ‘threat’ is being seen as a means to curb dissenting voices of the student community, which has been extended to teachers now. The aim is to curb any kind of future protest in any college or university campus, say observers.
The student community of several North Eastern universities have, however, resolved to intensify their fight the CAA by joining hands. The decision on joint protests was taken at a recent meeting held at Tezpur University. One reflection of this was on January 22, when the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear petitions against CAA. The entire student fraternity of NE universities called for a ‘total shut down’ of all colleges and universities, which got a massive response in Assam and other parts of NE.
Questions Over Sam Stefford’s Post-Mortem Report
Meanwhile, questions are being raised on the post-mortem report of Sam Stefford, a teenager who, along with Dipanjal Das, was killed in police firing in Guwahati during heightened anti-CAA protests. Both the teenagers succumbed to death after police opened fire, said reports.
Almost a month later, the post-mortem report of Stefford has come out, raising several concerns over his death. Assamese daily ‘Amar Asom’ first revealed the details of the report, which says that the boy was probably shot from close quarters. Not only that, he was shot from behind, according to the report, as he was hit in the right lower back and the bullet exited through the neck region. The report says Stefford also had injuries on his forehead, pointing indicating that he was wounded before or after the bullets pierced his body.
Stefford’s brother-in-law Sadek Ali told The Telegraph that they had filed a FIR with Hatigaon police on December 30, seeking a proper inquiry. “We don’t know what’s in the report, but we are hearing a lot of things like Sam was tortured before he was shot. Therefore, we want a proper inquiry,” he said.
Speaking to the media, Allen Brooks, the spokesperson of Assam Christian Forum, said: “ We have seen the post-mortem report and now we are verifying the contents. We are meeting the Nagarik Samaj on Thursday and will push for a public inquiry to unearth the truth. We will submit the report to the Assam Huma Rights Commission and government agencies because we feel somewhere down the line, there is an attempt to hush up everything.”
The deceased teenager was preparing for his 10th standard board exams and was a music lover, and was good at playing the table, say reports.