People of Assam united to defeat the coercive tactics of the ruling BJP to foil the Bandh, which was a legitimate protest against the partisan Citizenship Bill. The people of Assam won over the communal agenda of BJP Government in Assam
Guwahati, October 24: It was an unprecedented occasion in Assam with the historic success of Assam Bandh called by more than 60 youth, students and civil society organizations on October 23, 2018 against the communal agenda of ruling BJP Government in Assam, as well as India. The State has never before received such an overwhelming support to any
Bandh called by any party, organisation or a group of organisations. It paralysed normal life all over the state: apart from Upper to Lower Assam, from the hills to the plains, from urban centres to the remotest areas of riverine shores to the inter-state or international boundaries in the Brahmaputra Valley; it also had a significant impact in certain parts of the Barak Valley.
Though the Bandh was called to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill-2016, which is presently under the consideration of Joint Parliamentary Committee of India, the protest manifest into a conflict between the ruling BJP Government of Assam and the people; scions of the ruling partly openly threatened the people of Assam with dire action if someone ‘dared support the Bandh called on Tuesday’.
Representatives of the government of Assam under the BJP also threatened shop-keepers who supported the Bandh by remaining closed on October 23, with ‘cancellation of trade licenses; threatened drivers of vehicles of cancellation of licenses of the public vehicle if it did not run! Threats took other forms too : if any government employee doesn't attend office his salary would be cut and strong departmental action will be taken.
The Deputy Commissioners of various Districts of Assam were pushed into the government’s service and had hectic parleys with various trading and business organisations where they were repeatedly threatened not to participate in the Bandh that was called by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS)-Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad and 42 other social and ethnic organizations.
The Bandh was called against the hasty manner in which the BJP led Government in the Centre has been pushing the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill-2016 to give refugee status of minority groups of people from neighboring countries, specifically from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The general perception of the bill is that it will only to increase the large scale influx of Bengali Hindus migration from Bangladesh into Assam. The people of Assam and several North-Eastern States along with Eastern States are opposing such a move. The Bill is presently pending before the joint Parliamentary Committee headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal. The Committee has already had two rounds of visit in Meghalaya and Assam in April and May, 2018, when various organizations of Assam submitted hundreds of representations before it, in favour and opposing the proposed bill. There was, however, a major reaction in the State, at a time when the Joint Parliamentary Committee spent two days (May 5 and 6, 2018 in the Barak Valley and (only) one day on May 7, in Brahmaputra Valley. The Barak Valley which contains only three districts of Assam are those which favour the Bill, but Brahmaputra Valley consists of 30 Districts of Assam which have been opposing the Bill.
This duplicitous policy of the state BJP has created a huge resentment among many organizations and individual who have been opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill-2016. The resentment stems from the fact that those opposing the Bill were not allotted anytime to convey their views before the joint Parliamentary Committee. After the strongest possible reactions emerged from the organisations of the Brahmaputra Valley, Mohd. Salim, the CPI(M) MP and member of the joint Parliamentary Committee conveyed before the press on the late night of May 7, 2018 that the JPC headed by it's Chairman Rajendra Agarwal has decided to re-visit the state once again to take in views of all sections of the people of the Brahmaputra Valley. Mohd. Salim had conveyed in this media briefing that whatever he was saying was on the unanimous decision of the Joint Parliamentary Committee and he was speaking only on behalf of the Committee Chairman, Rajendra Agarwal. Surprisingly, without fulfilling the promise made at the media briefing the Chairman of the joint Parliamentary Committee was reported to have said after a meeting called on October 23, 2018 that suggested that, without visiting Assam again, the Committee would finalize it's report in Delhi and submit this before Parliament to ensure its passage.
It was this politics being played by the central and state BJP leadership that has fuelled a burning resentment in Assam once again. It was this that resulted in the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) alongwith 44 other organizations calling a meeting at Guwahati on October 20, 2018 to protest against the communal agenda of BJP and Citizenship Amendment Bill-2016. The BJP-led Government in Assam along with the Assam state BJP promptly reacted to the Bandh called by the 44 nos of Youth, Students, Ethnic, Civil Society and Mass organizations tagging them as defenders of "Bangladeshis" as a few Muslim Minority organizations were also part of the 44 organizations that called on the Bandh. The Assam State President of BJP, Ranjit Das on October 20, said, "those who have called on the Bandh have no organisations in the root level. Some organisations at the behest of Muslim Bangladeshi are very active now and they will work for success of the Bandh. People of Assam are very alert and they will have foiled any such attempt."
On October, 21, a powerful minister from the Assam cabinet, and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sharma said, " The organisations those have called on Bandh are against development of the State. The Government of Assam will take strongest action to fail it." He also said, "some organizations who are against Hindus are active for the success of the Bandh, but it will not succeed." He also accused the organisers of the Bandh as being defenders of the Bangladeshi Muslims.
On the same day Ranjit Das, the state BJP President, at a hurriedly organised press meet in Guwahati said, "25 lakh BJP Workers in Assam will come out to the streets of the State to foil the Bandh. Every Person, who opposes the Bandh will be helped by the BJP workers." When the BJP leaders and ministers were singing in a single chorus to foil the Bandh, they also pointed that two Minority organizations specially All Assam Minority Student's Union (AAMSU) and the All BTC Minority Student's Union (ABMSU) have declared their moral support to the Bandh which made the Bandh, in BJP’s view, a protest called by Muslims and their protectorates!
Thus the Government machinery and the BJP camp left no stone unturned to tagging the Bandh as backed by Muslims, doing theier best to ensure no Hindu support for it.The Government of Assam also served notices to every office, to every government employee, PSUs and business and trading organizations stating that if any one found that he or his office, organisation, or establishment didn't work, as normal to ensure that the Bandh failed, he would be punished. Every Deputy Commissioner of the State and Heads of Departments were served such threatening notices stating that everyone will face departmental punishment for not performing regular duty on the day of the Bandh in the case of government employees; trade licenses will be withdrawn in case any business establishment remains closed on the day of the Bandh in case of business establishment, shops etc, license of the vehicles will cancelled if not runs on the day of the Bandh. Threats also included withdrawal of license or affiliation or permission of industries, of private educational Institutions, petrol pumps etc if these individuals and organisations did not ensure normal work in their respective institutions, industries or establishments. Despite these mass notices served, despite these anti-democratic tactics, the number of protesting and supporting organisations only increased and rose to 60 by October 22. Even some political parties including Congress, CPI and CPI(ML) declared their open support to the Bandh at the last moment, responding to the overwhelming public mood.
The Bandh, therefore became the manifestation of an all our conflict between the genuine Indian citizens of Assam and the ruling BJP in which people's unity won hstoric popular support. The success of the Bandh was not only the mandate of Genuine Indian Citizens of Assam against the Citizenship Amendment Bill-2016 but it is a huge victory of the people of Assam against the communal agenda and oropaganda of the BJP party, its government and it's ally, the Sangh Pariwar.