Amid statewide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, leaders of the ruling BJP from Assam strongly backed the bill, invoking Mahatma Gandhi and Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, among others, to mobilise support for the bill which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
The BJP’s Assam state unit president Ranjeet Kumar Dass invoked Gandhi, saying it was everyone’s duty to give a person his/her fundamental rights and that an “unnecessary” impression was being created that lakhs of Bangladeshis would enter India once the bill is passed.
“Great personalities, right from Mahatma Gandhi, have been saying it is important to give citizenship to those who entered India because of religious persecution. I thank the Centre for the bill. An effort has been made to accord citizenship to those who entered India before December 31, 2014,” he said here, adding, if the 1.8 crore Hindus living in Bangladesh enter India because of the CAB, 42 lakh state BJP workers will resign.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, too, put up a brave front, despite the protests against him and his government with burning of his effigies now becoming a regular affair. He invoked Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, which provides constitutional safeguards to the Assamese, while urging the masses not to worry over the bill.
“The CAB is a long-standing electoral promise of the BJP. As promised, the bill has been tabled in the Lok Sabha. And I can say with conviction that it will be passed in both Houses. A long-standing problem will be solved through it. People of Assam need not be worried as their existence, language, culture, land and everything will be protected. The Centre has clearly told about it to the committee formed to suggest implementation of the Clause 6,” he said here.
The MHA-constituted committee has already started taking feedback from stakeholders. It has to submit its report by January.
Clause 6 envisages providing appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the “Assamese people”. These were the terms of reference given by the Union home ministry while forming the high-power committee.
Sonowal also urged those spreading “panic” among people about CAB “by wrongly explaining the bill to them”.
Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma seemed to be more aggressive while defending the bill and attacking those opposing it. He challenged All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya to an open debate on the issue and ridiculing the war cry of AASU during its anti-CAB protest.
“I challenge Bhattacharjya. Bring all college principals, school heads and award-winning teachers to this hall. Not only I, we all are ready for a debate. Nothing will happen by shouting ‘ho ho’. I have heard enough of it. What kind of word is this? Is it Assamese? We are not afraid. There was a Hindu civilisation (in the country). There will be a Hindu civilisation. Hindu civilisation will maintain secularism in India,” he said.
Bhattacharya, on the other hand, asked the government if CAB is harmful for states will inner line permits and sixth schedule areas (as the Centre has exempted these areas from the purview of the bill) how can it not be harmful for other states. Sarma said if people of Assam want to protect Srimanta Xankardeb, Batadrava Satra and women from criminals, then there is no option other than the BJP.
Referring to the intensity of agitation in Upper Assam, including in Dibrugarh University, Sarma said people there “do not realise the ground reality” and that a day would come when the students of Dibrugarh University would support the bill.
On the other hand, AGP’s Rajya Sabha MP Birendra Prasad Baishya on Monday broke his silence over the bill saying the CAB “will be a threat to our language and culture and the identity of an Assamese”. He said he would “strongly, very strongly” talk in favour of the people of Assam in Parliament. Baishya’s stand is significant because the AGP, an ally of the BJP in the state, has not openly opposed the bill like they had done earlier this year.