File Photograph: Sarbananda Sonowal

With the 2019 Lok Sabha polls around the corner, the ruling BJP in Assam is going to have a tough time, especially because of certain developments taking place against the party.

BJP’s ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has already announced that they are going to contest the Panchayat elections alone and they have been opposing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016.

AGP even went up to the extent of getting support from Shiv Sena and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) in opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill which endorses citizenship for the minorities (non-Muslims) from the neighbouring countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There has been mass opposition against the bill in Assam, the state which has long been suffering from illegal influx issues.

Starting from All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), the most influential students’ body to Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), yet another significant organization, all have been opposing the bill saying that if passed, it will bring doom to the state.

There has been series of agitations including strikes to oppose the bill in Assam. Recently around 50 odd organizations called for a 12-hour strike in Assam. On Friday, 70 organizations led by KMSS protested near Dispur against the bill.

“Our stand is clear. We will not let it happen. There shouldn’t be criteria to indentify the illegal citizens in the line of religion or caste and creed. For us, March 24, 1971 as per the Assam Accord should be the cut-off date for granting citizenship. The chief minister of Assam must understand this,” AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharyya told The News Mill during a recent conversation.

Assam Accord was signed in 1985 with the government of India following a six-year long agitation to drive out the illegal settlers.

The AGP, which has 14 seats in the state assembly, has also threatened to come out of the alliance if the BJP goes ahead with the bill. “I have said it before as well. If the BJP don’t respect the sentiments of the people of Assam, if they are not bothered with the issues here, then we will come out of the alliance,” AGP president Atul Bora told The News Mill.

Besides AGP, Bodoland Peoples Front has 12 seats and BJP has 61 seats in the 126 assembly in Assam.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was tabled in the parliament in 2016. Following widespread opposition, it was sent to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to review before it can be tabled again.

Congress says that the saffron party has already been exposed for their dual stand. Assam Congress vice president Pradyut Bordoloi alleged that BJP wanted to delay the process of the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) update so that they can pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

“The NRC update process was initiated by Congress and when BJP came to power they reluctantly continued the process. If the Citizenship Bill is passed, the bona fide of Assam Accord will be totally nullified. All these actions have really exposed BJP’s sinister game and people of Assam have realized that the BJP is actually carrying forward their hidden agenda. On the other hand, Congress has stood by whatever commitments we have given. That’s how Congress has been able to earn the confidence of the people of Assam,” Bordoloi, former commerce and industry minister, told The News Mill.

On the ambiguous stand with a unit in Barak Valley supporting the bill, Bordoloi admits that due to the local sentiments, a few Congress leaders express their support.

“I understand that point but it has been clarified by the central and state leadership that Congress party is opposed to the Citizenship Amendment bill. And the NRC process must be completed. So, there is no dichotomy in the state of the Congress,” Bordoloi added.

BJP state spokesman Syed Muminul Aowal said organizations who are opposing the bill have been misleading the people of Assam.

“The bill is being reviewed by the JPC which comprises MPs from all the parties not only BJP. So, people must understand that it’s a neutral process. As the bill still under the review, there is no point of creating such chaos. These groups are misleading the people of Assam and trying to gain political benefits,” Aowal told The News Mill.

He also slammed the AGP for opposing the bill. “If needed, they should sit with the party president Amit Shah and sort out things. AGP is doing it for their political compulsion,” Aowal added.

Pramod Boro, president of All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) said that the BJP-led government has turned out to be a vision-less and paradoxical government.

“To be very honest India doesn’t deserve such a government after 70 years of independence. They are self contradictory. We are extremely disappointed and helpless,” Boro told The News Mill.

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The News Mill is a Guwahati-based digital media with focus on content from across Northeast India and beyond. We can be reached through [email protected]


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