There was a particularly chilling moment during the debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) in the Lok Sabha on December 9, when BJP chief and Union Home Minister Amit Shah casually dismissed the emotions behind the Assam agitation that led to the signing of the historic Assam Accord.
Amit Shah’s rather condescend comment came in response to concerns raised earlier in the day by Gaurav Gogoi. But Amit Shah rather condescendingly pooh-poohed these concerns away saying, “Subah Gaurav ji baat karte the ki Assam Accord ka yeh bhaavna hai, bhaavna hai. Gaurav ji bhavna ka kya karoge?” (Translation: This morning Gaurav ji raised concerns about sentiments behind the Assam Accord. Gaurav ji what will you do with sentiments?)
This contemptuous disregard for the emotions and aspirations of the people of an entire state reeks of arrogance! The Assam agitation saw much bloodshed. In fact, December 10 is commemorated as the martyrdom day of those who laid down their lives during this extremely emotional movement that preceded the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.
But that wasn’t all. Shah’s strategy to address concerns of the people of Assam and the wider Northeast region were handicapped by his tenuous grip of facts on the ground along with his now established disregard for the actual demands of the people of Assam. Shah’s entire ‘solution’ for concerns raised by people from seven different states was making the areas under the Sixth Schedule and Inner Line Permit exempt from CAB. And while this addresses concerns of indigenous people and tribal communities, it completely ignores the wider issue of an influx of Bangladeshis due to CAB. In fact, it appears to pit the two groups i.e tribals and non-tribals against each other, a devious strategy of divide and conquer that has not been lost on the people of Assam.
Needless to say, people were not having any of it. Protests and demonstrations that had started over the weekend, only intensified on Monday. Public demonstration took place in Dhubri and Jorhat. People marched on the streets of Bongaigaon carrying lit torches and an “endless march” continued in Guwahati well into Monday night which saw participation from many students including a large number of women. At a protest in Gohpur people did not shy away from raising slogans against the Prime Minister and the Home Minister as chants of “murdabaad-murdabaad” echoed in the area.
The next morning was no better, the total bandh call given by a variety of students’ unions and socio-political organisations was successful in ensuring a complete shut-down. Shops downed their shutters and vehicles kept off the streets. Public transport services were suspended and train services were disrupted. People stormed the home of Member of Parliament Queen Ojha and even the residence of Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is often touted as the most influential politician in Assam, wasn’t spared. Agitators also staged a sit-in outside the MLA residential quarters in Dispur.
However, it remains to be seen if these Assamese sentiments will ultimately lead to the downfall of the BJP in the state.
Anti-CAB stir intensifies in Assam
USCIRF raises concerns about CAB, seeks sanctions against Amit Shah
The true cost of hailing the CAB
CAB tabled in Lok Sabha
Citizenship Amendment Bill passes, but what does this mean?