Regular-article-logo Monday, 02 October 2023

Modi’s Khelo trip on thin ice

This is the second time Modi had to cancel a visit to Assam

Abdul Gani Guwahati Published 08.01.20, 08:04 PM
Games volunteers with the mascots in Guwahati on Wednesday.

Games volunteers with the mascots in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unlikely to participate in the opening ceremony of the third edition of Khelo India Youth Games, which will commence here on January 10, in the face of massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Assam and the rest of the Northeast.

There is no official confirmation yet but reactions of top officials in the state government, the Games organising committee and a Press Information Bureau (PIB) release issued on Wednesday, left no one in any doubt that everything remaining equal, the visit is off.


Modi’s visit became iffy once anti-CAA protesters publicly said that the Prime Minister would face massive protests, including at the airport, if he visits the city for the mega event. On Tuesday, they had coined a slogan, “Khelo India, Bhago Modi”, which most saw could be the last nail in Modi “skipping the trip”.

This is the second time Modi had to cancel a visit to Assam. In December, the government had postponed Modi’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Guwahati.

A PIB statement on Wednesday said Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, minister of state (independent charge) for youth affairs and sports Kiren Rijiju, a host of star athletes, including Assam’s pride Hima Das, would be present during the inaugural ceremony on January 10. But there was no mention of Modi, which would not have been the case had the visit been on, those in the know pointed out.

Senior officials said there was “no confirmation from the PMO about the visit, so there was no question of cancellation”.

Prodded further, one of them said, “The Prime Minister is surely not coming or an advanced SPG team would have come by now to oversee security arrangements.”

It is yet to be known if the widespread protests against CAA have a role to play in the “no confirmation” of the visit.

Avinash Joshi, CEO of the Games, had mentioned during a news conference in December that invitation had been extended to the Prime Minister.

The influential All Assam Students’ Union, which is at the forefront of the anti-CAA movement, had warned that if the Prime Minister comes for the event, he would have to face huge protests.

Those opposing CAA feel that the law, which will allow some illegal migrants from Bangladesh to secure Indian citizenship, will threaten the culture and identity of the Assamese people. They are angry with the government for being indifferent to their sentiments. The protests have claimed five lives in Assam so far. The Games, which will run till January 22, will have 20 disciplines. More than 10,000 players, coaches and officials from all the states will be in the city to take part in the event.

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