GUWAHATI, JANUARY 16: Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday broke his silence over the ongoing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, saying that he would never betray the people who had entrusted him with running the State more than two years ago.
His assurance almost coincided with the decision of a forum of indigenous people to take up the fight against the Bill as a nationwide movement and not just restricted to Assam or the Northeast comprising eight States.
“The people of Assam made me a Chief Minister with lots of trust and confidence. I am not here to betray the Assamese race,” Sonowal said at a meeting in western Assam’s Dhubri.
“Time will prove that only we can protect the Assamese people. I have seen governments come and go, and did not take this responsibility to just become the Chief Minister,” he added.
Assam erupted in protest after the contentions Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8. Other Northeastern States, whose inhabitants are touchy about being outnumbered by migrants, joined the protest.
While the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) pulled out of the alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam, the latter’s regional partners in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura have voiced concern about the Bill. BJP leaders in the region, too, have urged the Centre to address the concerns of indigenous peoples.
Beyond the region
The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), which has been leading a group of 70 organisations in the movement against the Bill, has decided to make the fight a national issue.
“The Bill remains an issue for Assam and the other Northeastern States at this point of time. We will visit the other States, meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leaders and other political parties to convince them about the issue,” the organisation’s leader Akhil Gogoi said.
Bengali organisations, too, have begun opposing the bill. On Wednesday, members of the Bengali Yuba Chhatra Federation burnt copies of the Bill in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts.
“This Bill will do Bengalis of Assam more harm than good. It is designed to reopen old wounds that had healed over the last 30-40 years,” a spokesperson of the organisation said.
Bengalis bore the brunt of violence in Assam in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Scores were killed while thousands were forced to resettle in West Bengal or elsewhere in India. (The Hindu)