GUWAHATI, May 7: Various socio-cultural organizations, political parties, ethnic organizations and individuals in Assam have shown their total solidarity against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and got their loud-and-clear message across the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) conducting hearing on the Bill that the BJP’s slogan – jaati, maati aaru bheti – is seriously out of sync with the ground reality in the State.
A large number of organizations and individuals were seen opposing the Bill on the streets and before the JPC in Guwahati on Monday when the team led by Rajendra Agarwala was hearing the views of organizations, parties and individuals at Assam Administrative Staff College, Khanapara in the city. Minus the BJP, all major political parties in Assam – the AGP, Congress, CPI(M), AIUDF and others – have opposed the Bill.
Despite being a coalition partner at Dispur, all the three Cabinet ministers from the AGP also met the JPC and opposed the Bill. Leaders of many organizations like the KMSS and its students’ wing, students’ bodies, former ULFA leaders, senior citizens and others were seen to be fiercely against the Bill. All those opposing the Bill have also questioned the JPC’s rationale behind holding only one-day hearing for 30 districts of the Brahpamutra Valley against two-day hearing in the three districts of the Barak Valley. The JPC team is going to hear on the Bill at Silchar on May 8 and 9, 2018 before leaving for Shillong for such hearing on May 10.
To begin with, former Chief Minister and a signatory of the Assam Accord Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, who led a team of leaders including many who had taken active part in the Assam Agitation, was the first to oppose the Bill tooth and nail. Talking to the media, Mahanta said: “The passage of the Bill will spell doom for the existence of Assam, besides violating the Assam Accord and putting the language, literature and culture of Assam at stake. As signatories of the Assam Accord, we’ve no reason to support the Bill. No indigenous person of Assam should support the Bill. As people’s representatives, we need to respect the sentiment of the people we represent.”
A team of the Congress led by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Ripun Bora also opposed the Bill before the JPC. Talking to the media, Gogoi said: “States in India were formed based on language, not religion. Taking cue from that we shouldn’t divide foreigners based on their religions. The Bill, if passed, will violate the basic structure of the Constitution. The passage of the Bill will also violate the Assam Accord. A large number of people of Assam had to lay down their lives during the Assam Agitation. We need to take that in mind. We’ve already shouldered a staggering burden of Bangladeshis by accepting those who entered Assam before 1971. The BJP, a party of frauds, is trying to get the passage of the Bill for its vote bank. The jaati, maati and bheti slogan of the BJP has no political value.”
APCC president Ripun Bora said the BJP has hatched a conspiracy to spell disaster for the Assamese nationality by making effort to pass such an anti-Assam Bill. After the passage of the Bill, the NRC being updated now will be of no use, he added.
An AGP team led by party president and minister Atul Bora also opposed the Bill before the JPC. Talking to the media, Bora said: “Despite being a coalition partner at Dispur, we’re in no way going to support the Bill. The Assam Accord was signed after a long mass uprising in the State. The Bill seeks to violate the Accord. We’ve appealed to the JPC to withdraw the Bill. We’ve no objection for the JPC holding hearing at Silchar. We, however, feel that the JPC needs to hold such hearing in Upper Assam, North Bank and Lower Assam as well.”
Former MP Birendra Baishya, who was a member of the AGP team, said: “The JPC should visit the Indo-Bangladesh border in the Assam sector and see how open the border is. Our cry is ‘save Assam today to save India tomorrow’.”
Two other AGP cabinet ministers – Phani Bhushan Choudhury and Keshab Mahanta – were also members of the party team at the hearing.
Leading a team of his party, veteran CPI(M) leader Hemen Das also opposed the Bill before the JPC. Talking to the media, Das said: “The hearing has been grossly mismanaged. We were called at 10 am, but we could convey our views between 4 pm and 4.30 pm. We’ve opposed the Bill. We can’t let the Assam Accord being violated. All parties, organizations and individuals in the State respect the Accord.”
Axam Xahitya Xabha (AXX) president Paramananda Rajbongshi, who led a team, also opposed the Bill. Rajbongshi told the media that the premier literary body cannot support a Bill that is set to spell disaster for the language, literature and culture of the State.
The AJYCP team by led by its president Pratul Dutta has also opposed the Bill. Talking to the media, AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai said: “The population of India has increased by four times in the past 50 years. In Assam, the population has increased by eight times during the period. In such a situation, how can we support the Bill?”
Accompanying the AJYCP team, Adip Phukan, said: “This is another bid on the part of the Centre to hand over Assam to erstwhile East Pakistan. During the grouping also, Delhi did place Assam with East Pakistan. Since 1971 the number of Assamese speakers in the State has been falling fast. We’ve no reason to back the Bill.”
Leading the Nagharikotto Songshudhoni Bidheyak Birodhi Mancha, Dr Hiren Gohain also opposed the Bill before the JPC. Talking to newsmen, he said: “We submitted adequate documents, including a Supreme Court verdict, against the Bill. We’ve proved before the JPC that the fundamental features of the Constitution of India can’t be violated. We’ve also placed some historical documents corroborating harassment on the people of Assam since the time of British India. The passage of the Bill will only spell doom for the future of Assam.”
Leading a team of the KMSS and its students’ wing (SMSS), Akhil Gogoi said: “The passage of the Bill will violate the Preamble of Indian Constitution. Assam can’t shoulder any more burdens of Bangladeshis. All organizations and ethnic bodies of the State need to foil the RSS-BJP’s conspiracy to get the Bill passed.”
Former ULFA leader Anup Chetia, leaders of the SAKP, AAMSU, Asom Anusuchito Jaati Chatra Santha, Asom Aandolan Swahid Samannay Rakshi Samiti, Karbi Students’ Association, film fraternity including Prastuti Parashar, Manas Robin, and others, Charan Deka, senior citizens’ body led by Dhirendra Nath Chakravarty, and others opposed the Bill as well.
Many organizations raised their demand for hearing by the JPC in Upper Assam, Lower Assam and North Bank too.
During the hearing, all the four JPC members from Assam – Ramen Deka, Sushmita Dev, Kamakhya Prasad Tasha and Bhubaneswar Kalita – were present.