GUWAHATI: Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 should be withdrawn from Assam in phases as the law and order has improved much since the last Congress rule in the State.
The former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia were also skeptical of the BJP backing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
Addressing the media at Dispur on Tuesday, Gogoi said this while referring to the court martial of seven army personnel, including a Major General, by the Army Court in connection with the killing of five civilians in 1994 in Tinsukia district in Assam. The Army Court pronounced life sentence to the seven.
Gogoi said: “There are reports of killing of innocent people by army personnel in the State. The sentence pronounced by the Army court is significant since those who committed the crime are army personnel. Former MLA Jagadish Bhuyan also deserves credit as his effort has come to fruition. The AFSPA is still needed in some districts in the State, and which is why I favour its withdrawal in phases. If the need arises, it can be imposed afresh. We don’t want killing of any innocent people.”
On the forthcoming panchayat poll in the State, Gogoi said: “The rural poll is set to be held with the intervention of the Gauhati High Court that has set a deadline of January 15, 2019 for Dispur to hold it. In fact, Dispur is not keen to hold panchayat poll. The panchayat poll is an acid test for the BJP. It will make it crystal clear if the BJP in Assam still enjoys people’s mandate or not.”
On the Citizenship Bill, Gogoi said: “I’ve never seen such a catastrophe. The tenure of the BJP is the darkest period in the political history of Assam. If Bill gets its passage, the Dark Age will revisit Assam. The States of India were formed based on languages, not on religions. And if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed, this basic fabric (linguistic states) will break. It’ll violate the Assam Accord that has a cut-off date of March 24 mid-night, 1971. The BJP is vent of passing the Bill sacrificing the interest of Assam. This is nothing but betrayal by a party that spoke of protection of jaati, maati and bheti of Assam before the last election. In this hour of crisis political parties, students’ organizations, labour unions and others should team up to foil the Bill.”
The former Chief Minister further said: “I’ve never seen such a weak government in the State. It should’ve been courageous enough to convey the opinion of the people of Assam against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill before New Delhi. The NRC being updated by taking March 24 mid-night, 1971 as the cut-off date will be meaningless. All the money spent on NRC update and the monitoring by the Supreme Court of India will go waste if the Bill gets its passage.”
On the proposed rally being organized by a few Bengali organizations in support of the Bill in Guwahati, Gogoi said: “Dispur should stop the rally or else it’ll deepen the conflict. Without any indirect support from Dispur, such organizations daren’t call such a congregation in Guwahati.”
Speaking in another press meet, Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia said: “Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal speaks of fighting evil forces. But who’re evil forces? They need to be identified. The BJP is bent on passing an out-and-out anti-Assamese Bill. This move has proved it beyond doubt that the BJP’s jaati, maati and bheti slogan was just a gimmick to garner votes.”
Pointing his accusing finger at the AGP, Saikia said: “The regional party should stop its drama when the existence of Assam and its people is at stake. It should make it clear if it’ll side with the people of Assam or with the BJP. If the anti-Assam Bill gets its passage, the AGP will also be held responsible. If the party sides with the people of Assam, it should put pressure on the BJP to withdraw the Bill from the Parliament.”
Saikia has alleged that syndicates are very much active in the State. Some MLAs and youth leaders of the BJP are running such syndicates, he said. According to him, smuggling of cow and betel nut are also taking place in the State. He has demanded handing over of all these to the CBI.
Saikia has also alleged that a syndicate on transfer and posting of officers has been active in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat.