EDITORIAL

What Stops Dispur?

While addressing the press in Guwahati on Friday, Assam Parliamentary Affairs and Industries & Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said the State government will give its opinion on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 only after the National Register of Citizens (NRC) work in the State is over since NRC update is the government’s “priority” as of now and it cannot allow the work to be “jeopardized”. He allayed the fears of the indigenous people of the State as he said the State government is “committed to ensuring that the interests of the State and its people are not hurt”. He appealed to the people of the State to have “faith” on Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and the government he is leading. Pointing to the NRC being updated, he said it is “crucial to save the identity of the local people of Assam”. When asked why the State government cannot follow the Meghalaya example – the Meghalaya cabinet took a resolution opposing the Bill – he said the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) conducting public hearings both in Assam and the neighbouring State has not sought the opinion of Dispur as yet. He said as and when the JPC seeks the opinion of the State government, Dispur will give its views. He also said the Meghalaya cabinet could take a decision against the Bill as there is no NRC work in that State.

Two fundamental questions arise. First, what is the linkage between the NRC work being the State government’s “priority” and “jeopardy” to it in case the government takes a stand against a Bill that is downright objectionable and anti-Assam in view of its potential of flooding the State with hordes of new illegal immigrants from Bangladesh just because the BJP has to work out a new vote-bank methodology? How on earth can the NRC update work, done under the directive of the Supreme Court, be affected or “jeopardized” if Dispur makes it clear to the JPC – and to the Prime Minister directly – that under no circumstance will the BJP-led government at Dispur, committed to jaati, maati and bheti as it keeps its rhetoric high from the Secretariat housetop and at various rallies, accept the Bill that goes directly against indigenous interests? The Sarbananda Sonowal government would do well to explain convincingly. And second, as Patowary, on behalf of the Chief Minister, has appealed to the people of the State to have “faith” in the government as it will ensure that their interests are not harmed, does it not boil down to saying that since the people of the State – the indigenous people, to be precise – are obstinately opposed to the Bill as they have already borne the demographically devastating brunt of illegal immigration from Bangladesh, the government will keep their “faith” in it that it will not endanger their identity and existence? And does it then not mean that the BJP-led State government too is opposed to the Bill – because if it is not, it will only be going against the interests of the indigenous people while Patowary has already said the government will ensure that their “interests” will not be “hurt? If it is so, what stops the Sarbananda Sonowal government to make a simple assertion right away – that it will not and never accept the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill because the sons of the soil of the State do not want it and in a democracy it is their want that is, and must remain, supreme? Answers are in order – for the safeguard of indigenousness in a beleaguered State.