GUWAHATI, May 10: Students of the century-old Cotton College (now Cotton University) staged a strong protest against Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s conspicuous silence on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 forcing the latter to skip an official felicitation function at the university premises here on Thursday evening.
Cottonians displayed placards with strong words against Sonowal’s silence. One of such placard written in Assamese with a tinge of satire read like this: “For the last few days when the entire State is witnessing widespread protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Sarbananda Sonowal, who was once considered as jaatiya naayak for his leadership against illegal Bangladeshis, is seen missing. If anyone could trace Sonowal, please inform us.”
Sensing further trouble and embarrassment, Sonowal skipped the felicitation function at the university at the eleventh hour on Thursday evening. The function was organized by the State Level Advisory Committee for Students and Youth Welfare, Assam to felicitate the State’s students who came out with flying colours in the recently declared UPSC exam results. The Chief Minister had consented to attend the function as chief guest. Protests by Cottonians further intensified when they came to know that Sonowal skipped the felicitation function.
“We did not expect this from a personality like Sarbananda Sonowal. The people of Assam had made Sonowal take charge of the State with enormous hopes and aspirations to safeguard their rights and interests. But they are now shocked to see his silence when Assam is on the threshold of losing its identity due to the Centre’s move to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis. We want the CM to speak up against the Centre’s move for the sake of the greater interest of the Assamese people,” Mriganka Roy, a student of Cotton University, said.
Another Cottonian said history will not forgive Assam if the Chief Minister does not speak against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. “Sonowal must not mind relinquishing his post of CM if the need arises while protesting the Bill,” he said.
When Sonowal confirmed his inability to attend the felicitation function, the organizers ran the show with State Education Minister Siddhartha Bhattacharyya. But the Cottonians continued their protests, shouting slogans against Bhattacharyya urging him to leave the varsity campus.
Bhattacharyya after the function told reporters that some Cottonians have expressed their opinions and the BJP will retain its own opinion on the issue over reacted to the situation. He said last minutes urgent and unavoidable official assignments might have made the CM to skip the felicitation function. But Cottonians were not convinced and said if Sonowal had conviction on the issue he should have the university and faced students to present his views.