Will PM refer to CAA? Assam holds its breath
Assam will closely watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words for observations on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has left the state restive since December, as he celebrates the signing of the Bodo Peace Accord in Kokrajhar on Friday.
While the Congress and leading organisations such as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), which are spearheading the anti-CAA movement in the state, want the Prime Minister to clear his stand on Assam’s age-old issue of illegal immigration, the ruling BJP is hoping that he may clear the doubts over the CAA.
In Parliament on Thursday, Modi spoke about how CAA will not affect any religious community, on the Bodo Accord and on how his government has brought the Northeast closer to the mainstream.
The Prime Minister tweeted in the evening: “Tomorrow, I look forward to being in Assam. I will be in Kokrajhar to address a public meeting. We will mark the successful signing of the Bodo Accord, which brings to an end a problem that had been persisting for decades. It marks the start of a new era of peace and progress.”
This will be Modi’s first visit to Assam since his re-election in May last year, as two visits slated for December and January were cancelled. The visit slated for Indo-Japan summit on December 15 was “postponed” in the backdrop of anti-CAA protests. Modi was also invited to inaugurate the recently concluded Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati on January 10 but that visit also did not materialise.
Ahead of the games, the AASU and the AJYCP had vowed to hold protests against Modi’s visit.
However, this time the AASU has decided not to protest in solidarity with the Bodo people who will be celebrating the signing of the Accord.
Also, Kokrajhar falls under the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), which is exempted from the purview of CAA.
Congressman and leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, told The Telegraph, “We want the Prime Minister to talk about CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC), which has created unrest in the entire country. The Congress is against CAA and wants implementation of the Assam Accord which Modi had promised to fulfil ahead of the 2014 polls. What about his previous commitments?” Saikia said the Congress would start its next phase of the anti CAA movement on February 12.
The CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who fled to India on or before December 31, 2014 due to religious persecution whereas the Assam Accord had fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date to detect and deport foreigners from the state.
The AJYCP wants the Prime Minister to answer why the state should take the burden of Hindu foreigners till 2014. “He should say why entire Assam should not be exempted from the purview of CAA when the state has already taken the burden of foreigners for the rest of the country till 1971. He should exempt the state and announce it tomorrow (Friday),” AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai said.
AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya said the answer to the state’s problem of illegal immigration was already in the Assam Accord. “Proper implementation of the Assam Accord, and not the CAA, is the answer to Assam’s age-old problem of influx,” he said.
Both the AASU and the AJYCP believe that the Bodo community is an integral part of the indigenous population of the state and would back their movement against CAA.
The ruling BJP, however, believes that Modi’s visit to the state would add muscle to the state government’s attempt to counter rumours and misinformation on CAA.
BJP spokesperson Rupam Goswami said, “It’s impossible to say whether the Prime Minister’s speech would have references of CAA since this visit is for a different reason but it would be great if he clears the doubts on the Act.”
The BJP and its ally in the state government, the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), have been holding public rallies in the state. They have accused the Congress and the Left Front of spreading misinformation about the CAA and creating unrest in Assam.
Modi is expected to arrive in Guwahati around 11am and then fly in a helicopter to Kokrajhar, a distance of about 216km by road. Tight security arrangements have been made for the visit.