|KMSS activists stage a demonstration in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, July 17: Dispur’s push to secure asylum for persons fleeing religious persecution from neighbouring Bangladesh after March 24, 1971, today saw widespread protests across Assam and compelled Opposition parties AIUDF and BJP to hold several brainstorming sessions before commenting on such a “sensitive” issue.
The Tarun Gogoi cabinet yesterday decided to move the Centre to frame a policy for granting asylum to persons who fled religious persecution and discrimination and took refuge in India on humanitarian grounds.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) activists in Golaghat district burned effigies of Gogoi and Assam Accord implementation minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to register their protests against the cabinet decision. Members of the students’ union also staged demonstrations in Nagaon, Bongaigaon, Jorhat and Nalbari districts.
After the protests, the Jorhat district AASU adviser, Biren Saikia, said the cabinet has no right to take such a decision which is against the Constitution and has been opposed by the people.
“Eighteen cabinet ministers who ratified such a decision will have to face consequences in the next elections,” Saikia said.
The secretary of the Dhubri district unit of AASU, Pulakesh Roy Bepari, said protests were held at Gauripur, Golokganj, Salkocha, Bilasipara and Bahalpur. The Tezpur district unit of AASU today said Gogoi himself would face the consequences of the decision and raised slogans “Tarun Gogoi hai hai, Assam government hai hai, Bangladeshi go back,” this evening.
The 1985 Assam Accord said any person who has illegally entered the country after March 24, 1971, will be deported.
The AASU, which led the historic six-year-long anti-foreigners’ movement alleged that the Gogoi government was indulging in vote bank politics to win the 2016 Assembly elections by taking such a pro-Bangladeshi stand.
“Chief minister Tarun Gogoi had raked up the issue before the 2011 Assembly polls in Assam. After its humiliating defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has become desperate to aggressively play its old game of vote bank politics. Hence this aggressive push seeking asylum status for Bangladeshi refugees. Whether they are Hindus or Muslims, all those who entered Assam from Bangladesh after 1971 must leave the state as per the Assam Accord,” AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya told The Telegraph.
Bhattacharjya said Assam has already absorbed those who came before March 24, 1971, the cut-off date in the tripartite Assam Accord.
Those who illegally entered Assam after this date will be treated as foreigners. “Why should Assam continue to bear the burden of more Bangladeshis, whether Hindus or Muslims? If the Assam cabinet is so worried, why isn’t it thinking about securing the future of indigenous communities? We will never accept such anti-Assam decisions. It is against the Assam Accord,” Bhattacharjya said.
AASU general secretary Tapan Kumar Gogoi said the government’s decision could create a communal divide in the name of detecting and deporting foreigners.
Activists of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), too, staged protests in front of the secretariat in Dispur and alleged that the Gogoi government had hatched a conspiracy to convert Assam into a refuge of Bangladeshi nationals.
Police had to arrest five KMSS activists, including its publicity secretary Dharjya Konwar, when they tried to storm the secretariat complex with a demand for immediate withdrawal of the cabinet’s decision.
The Bongaigaon district unit of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) also burnt an effigy of Gogoi in front of their district office.
The district unit president, Brajen Baruah, said besides changing the population pattern, such a decision would impact land rights of indigenous and genuine citizens of Assam.
Biswajit Ray, who leads a faction of the All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU), said: “It is shameful that the state government, that has failed to protect genuine citizens of its own state, is advocating accommodation for the immigrants here.”
The general secretary of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU), Rezaul Karim Sarkar, also opposed the decision.
He said his organisation would never tolerate the presence of any refugee in the state who migrated after 1971.
The president of the All BTAD Minority Students’ Union, Sahabuddin Ali Ahmed, alleged that the decision was a ploy to divert the issues of BTAD violence and anti-dam movement.
On the other hand, the AIUDF and the BJP are holding discussions before coming up with a statement.
“It is a very sensitive issue. We are holding in-depth discussions. Our leader Badruddin Ajmal is expected to make the party’s official statement tomorrow,” Hafiz Basir Ahmed Qassimi, the general secretary (administration) of the AIUDF, said.