GUWAHATI, May 9: So, ultimately, the wide chasm between the people of the Brahmaputra and the Barak valleys in terms of their aspirations and sense of identity has become conspicuous, courtesy the BJP-led government at the Centre that has put the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the public domain by way of conducting public hearings.
A significantly striking contrast between the two valleys is glaringly visible with the hearing by the JPC. While the people and organizations in the Brahmaputra valley displayed their total solidarity against the Bill on Monday, their counterparts in the Barak Valley counterbalanced the situation on Tuesday and Wednesday by showing total support for the Bill. Only a few groups opposed the Bill in the valley. The JPC led by Rajendra Agawala has also got the message loud and clear entailing hard realities like the Assam Accord and NRC update, besides social issues and the situation in Assam being strikingly different from situations seen in other States in the country. This could make the JPC visit the State again for hearing in Upper Assam, Lower Assam and North Bank.
The possibility of another visit to the State by the JPC has its origin in the public displeasure over, what they say, discriminatory attitude on the part of the parliamentary committee in holding a one-day hearing for 30 districts in the Brahmaputra Valley and hills against a two-day hearing for only three districts in the Barak Valley.
During the three-day JPC hearing in Assam. as many as 442 organizations and individuals – 127 from the Brahmaputra Valley and 315 from the Barak Valley – submitted their views in the form of memorandums to the parliamentary committee. Apart from these organizations, thousands of other memorandums have been submitted to the JPC from both the valleys through their respective local administrations. A section of other organizations and individuals opted to send their memorandums to Dispur through e-mail. Dispur is going to send all these memorandums to the JPC. Sources in the State Home Department say that even memorandums that will be sent to Dispur through e-mails now till the JPC concludes its hearing can be sent to the parliamentary committee.
The organizations and people in the Brahmaputra Valley consider that they have both reasons and sentiment on their side. The Centre’s cut-off date – December 31, 2014 – for granting Indian citizenship to minorities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan entering India following religious persecution in their home country has no takers in the valley. The sentiment of the valley is attached to the Assam Accord that was reached after the sacrifice of lives by over 855 martyrs, and this attachment is deep-rooted. The ongoing NRC update exercise in the State is also carried out by taking the Assam Accord as the basis. This apart, the BJP was on record saying in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls that all foreigners staying in Assam would have to pack up in the event of the party coming to power. The saffron party also made it to Dispur with the slogan laden with the sentiment of the indigenous people of the State – jaati, maati, bheti. Backed by all such reasons and sentiment, how come the dice is loaded against the valley?
Meanwhile, the BJP in Assam seems to be on a shaky ground with its coalition partner, AGP, making it more than clear that it will pull out of the coalition as and when the Parliament passes the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. This apart, the AASU is also against the Bill.
The JPC team is accompanied by officials from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and other ministries. The team is going to hold such hearing at Shillong on Thursday.