Five months into its rule in Assam, the BJP-led government is beginning to feel the heat over the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to Hindu migrants.
The simmering anger against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to revise the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1955, is inching towards a boiling point.
The All Assam Students Union (AASU) on October 18 staged a massive protest across Assam against the Centre’s decision to grant citizenship to Hindus fleeing religious persecution from countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan.
If amended, the Act would enable lakhs of undocumented Hindu Bangladeshis residing in Assam to get Indian citizenship, which would be contradictory to the Assam Accord that deems any person – whether Hindu or Muslim – as ‘illegal migrant’ if found entering the state from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971.
Hundreds of AASU activists in Guwahati led by AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya as well as in every district and subdivision headquarters of Assam took out torchlight rallies on Tuesday evening. The students’ association, which led a six-year-long anti-foreigners movement in the state, demanded immediate cancellation of the Centre’s plan to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu refugees from Bangladesh.
AASU president Dipanka Nath and general secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi in a statement said that the AASU will fight against the ‘Central government’s conspiracy’ tooth and nail.
“Assam can no longer be the dumping ground for Bangladeshi migrants. Assam took a lot of refugees during and after partition and during the 1971 Bangladesh war. We will never allow it to happen again. It will be a threat to the very existence of indigenous people of Assam,” the AASU leaders said. They further warned that the AASU will launch a mass agitation in the coming days against the ‘anti-Assam attitude’ of the Central government.
The former chief minister demanded the Central government withdraw the Bill, taking into account the sentiment of the people of Assam.
Meanwhile, after former chief minister Tarun Gogoi and the All Assam Students Union, another former CM and chief adviser of Axom Andolan Sangrami Mancha Prafulla Kumar Mahanta on October 18 protested against the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants, saying it will jeopardize Assamese language and culture.
Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, Mahanta expressed anguish at the proposed amendment of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Amendment Bill is currently under consideration of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament.
“If citizenship is granted to Bangladeshis by amending the Act, the historic Assam Accord will be rendered invalid and it will be an anti-indigenous people move,” said Mahanta.
Speaking at the press conference, former MP and chief convener of Axom Andolan Sangrami Mancha, Kumar Deepak Das said, “We will in no way accept this move. We have already filed a PIL in Gauhati High Court against the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to Bangladeshi immigrants. We will never let the sacrifices of martyrs of the Assam Movement go in vain.”
Taking a dig at former CM Tarun Gogoi, Das said that he has no moral right to oppose the Centre’s move. “Gogoi has now taken an opposite stand. When his government was in power, they expressed their desire to welcome Bangladeshis. Gogoi himself had said in Silchar that they will allow Bangladeshis to stay on in Assam on humanitarian ground. Gogoi is responsible for the situation which is arising today,” Das added.