A social media campaign that seeks to build a movement for making Bengali the first language of Assam in the coming 2021 census has raised the hackles of Bengali minority groups in the Northeast state, who flay it as an attempt to disturb peace by spoiling the age-old ties between the Assamese and Bengalis.
The campaign ‘Mission Chalo Paltai 2021’ (Mission Let Us Change 2021) – said to be the brain child of a group of Bengali speaking persons in Kolkata, Delhi and Assam – has asked Muslim and Hindu Bengalis in Assam to come together by forgetting their differences and give their mother tongue as Bengali when census enumerators knock their doors.
The leaders of the movement – Garga Chatterjee of Kolkata, Chandan Chattopadhyay of Delhi and Santanu Mukhopadhyay of Assam – have come up with provocative videos posted on Facebook that claim that the Northeast state belongs more to Bengalis than Assamese as the former are “in the majority” but were forced to give out their mother tongue as Asomiya under duress in the past.
The campaign is also being carried through WhatsApp and Facebook groups with a number of “controversial” and “inciting” messages and posts creating resentment in Assam.
There is also a suspicion that the campaign has the blessings of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress, which has been trying to pander to Bengali sentiments in West Bengal after receiving serious setbacks in the recent Lok Sabha polls. The Trinamool is also firmly opposed the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam that seeks to identify genuine Indian citizens and send “foreigners” to detention camps.
However, Trinamool leaders have vehemently denied any links with the campaign or its leaders.
In Assam, a number of Bengali and Assamese groups have hit the streets against the Chalo Paltai campaign and asked people not to “fall in its trap”.
All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) President Rejaul Karim Sarkar has alleged that the campaign was nothing but an attempt to “destroy Assam” and “disrupt” the fight for the rights of the indigenous people.
On the other hand, Guwahati-based Right to Information activist Dulal Bora has registered a police complaint against the online campaign.
According to him, three-four police complaints have been lodged against the campaign and its leaders.
Kamal Choudhury, president of the All Assam Bengali Yuva Chatra Federation, said, it was a “mischief” to jeopardise the age-old relations between Assamese and Bengalis in Assam.
However, Chalo Paltai campaigners say there are well within their rights to raise issues affecting the Bengali speaking people in Assam and are also bringing to light the tough times being faced by voters and those languishing in detention camps.
The All Assam Bangali Yuva Chatra federation has appealed to Bengali speaking to stay clear of the campaign.
Last week, the Asomiya Yuva Mancha hit the streets against the mission and torched effigies the campaign leaders.