Congress CAA referendum cry on Rahul rally eve
The Assam Congress on Friday demanded a referendum on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the state.
The demand came at a news conference held on the eve of senior party leader Rahul Gandhi’s public rally in Guwahati and was addressed by senior party leaders like AICC Assam-in-charge Harish Rawat, PCC president Ripun Bora, leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia and former chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
“Let there be a referendum on the Act within six months. Then everything will be clear,” Gogoi said.
When asked whether Gogoi’s demand was also the demand of the Assam Congress, Bora said, “Yes, we want a referendum.”
The demand came in response to BJP leader and cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s claim that the BJP would win 100 of the 126 Assembly seats in the 2021 election, belying the perception that the people of Assam are against the CAA and the BJP. Sarma had made the claim at a public meeting in Barpeta district recently and reiterated it at a public meeting at Jagiroad in Morigaon district on Friday.
Gogoi has been maintaining that the BJP’s victory in successive elections in Assam does not reflect the people’s support for the Act.
“Elections are not a referendum on the Act. Numerous other issues come into play in an election,” he said.
Rawat said the Congress was the first national party to oppose the Centre’s move to amend the Act which would give citizenship to non-Muslim persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries who had entered India, even without valid documents, till December 31, 2014.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 9 and the Rajya Sabha on December 11, triggering a series of protests in Assam where five people lost their lives and many got arrested.
Rawat said Rahul, besides addressing the meeting at Khanapara, would visit the houses of two persons who died in police firing during the anti-CAA protests. The meeting will begin at 11am but Rahul will address the gathering at 1.10pm, Bora said. Rahul will arrive here and leave on Saturday.
Rawat said if the Congress comes to power, it will repeal CAA. “I want to say with profound grief that we did not have the required numbers in Parliament. Otherwise, we would not have let the bill be passed,” he said.
Saikia demanded that chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal do the needful so that the Assembly holds a special session on CAA.
Bora refuted the BJP’s allegation that the anti-CAA protests in Assam were backed by the Congress. “The protest is not in Assam. It is across the country and even outside. Do we also back those protests?” he asked.
Detention camps: Gogoi called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “liar” for saying that there is no detention camp in the country and claimed that the BJP-led government at the Centre had sanctioned Rs 46 crore for the one in Assam’s Goalpara district, adds PTI. Gogoi said the Congress government in Assam headed by him had set up detention camps in the state as per a Gauhati High Court order. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had suggested setting up detention camps for illegal immigrants, he added.
“Modi is a liar,” Gogoi said at a press conference here referring to a rally by the Prime Minister at the national capital recently in which he had said there is no detention camp in the country. “In 2018, the Narendra Modi government sanctioned Rs 46 crore for constructing the largest detention centre at Matia in Goalpara district of Assam for housing 3,000 illegal immigrants. Suddenly he says there is no detention camp,” Gogoi said.
He said the Congress government which he helmed had set up detention camps in Assam as per the directions of the Gauhati High Court in 2008. “They (BJP) say these (detention) camps were set up by the Congress. We set them up as per the order of the high court to detain people who were declared foreigners by the foreigners tribunal,” he added.
Cong rejoinder: Leader of the Opposition and CLP leader Debabrata Saikia, responding to Sonowal’s charges at BJP rally at Jagiroad on Friday (see Metro), said the BJP was spreading lies. “We want to ask the chief minister when the 1985 Assam Accord was signed to end the Assam agitation? When was the process to prepare the 1951 NRC initiated? All this was done under the Congress regime.”
“In 2005, the chief minister got the IM(DT) scrapped as it was hampering detection and deportation of illegal foreigners. We now want to know why they brought in CAA where the cut-off date is December 31, 2014, which violates the Assam Accord cut-off date of March 24, 1971,” he said. Rawat said, “It is us who signed the Assam Accord and we even sacrificed our government after the Accord for peace. Our people also died during the movement. My question to Sarbanandaji is, where was the BJP during the Assam Movement?”
The Assam Accord was signed during the late Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure.