Assam: A New Communal Nub
Two developments in recent times have defined the present political thinking of the ruling class and their vision of the New Assam. Those of us who are still inspired by the song ‘Agni Jugor Phiringoti Ami Notun Axom Gorhim’ by the legendry Bhupen Hazarika stumbles by the new concept of New Asom, completely burning the essence as envisaged by the bard.
So the central government has taken a firm stand on amendment of the Citizenship Law. And not so surprisingly the Assam government is trying its best to justify the bringing of such an amendment bill into law with all its commanders, who are trying out new strategies and tactics to brainwash the masses. So that whatever opposition coming out against the bill can be downsized by creating a leviathan against it.
Now question arise what leviathan has been in the making to put in opposition to the said bill. Few days back a small news was carried by few newspapers in Assam that highlighted that a new decision is been taken by Assam police to have rigorous surveillance in the char areas of Assam. Though not prominently put in the public domain either by print media, electronic media or social media, the development surely shows a new uprising in the public policy practice, an ideological shift and a sign of programmed socio-political change in Assam now and for whole north eastern region in the next few years.
Now let us specifically discuss these poled apart but related developments.
On July 19, 2016, the present government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduced a bill to amend certain provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955. The objective of the proposal is to enable the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who have fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh illegally, to acquire Indian citizenship by the process of naturalization. To put light a little further, the bill has its genesis in the announcement of Prime Minister Modi for protection of the Hindus who migrate from these three neighboring countries.
Now such is the character of the bill that it has made citizenship rules along the laws of religion very explicit as a departure from earlier version. Another major change is the period of getting naturalized citizenship would be reduced from eleven years to six years. If the bill gets passed, it would fulfill one of the promises of BJP in last election manifesto that declare India to be the natural home of Hindus around the world.
There is large scale opposition from all section in this region against such amendment as it is commonly argued that it will shake the existence of ‘Jati, Mati, Bheti’ (community, land and root). However the less debated consequence is that it can lead to an inspiration for the ruling party to make another amendment to the constitution that still upholds secularism.
A very recent development of which the news broke out on 19th October 2016 that the Assam Police has brought out circulars for bringing char areas of Assam under surveillance. In fact from 18th October onwards, the department has already started a program to survey and bring the chars- the riverine sand bars under continuous hawks’ eyes. The Director General of Police in Assam has categorically said that such a decision has been taken after the Chief Minister directed the administration to go to the chars, so that anti social as well as anti nationals cannot gain ground in these areas. Thus Assam police has started this mission to visit the chars and bring them into surveillance. The main strategy as has been announced is to collect information about the inhabitants and about all those people from outside who visit the islands.
This development shows a consistent pace of constructing a problem- that is the Muslims in Assam who are the majority dwellers of the chars. The design is to make this religious community a threat for the state that can only be countered by a strong administrative mechanism as well as by a foresighted planning whereby in long run they become a diminished minority to even exist as a problem. Therefore the other poled development is happening, whereby the anticipated plan of amendment of citizenship act can be analyzed. This belief of present ruling class is no secret now after the clarion call of the second in charge of the present ministry in Assam to choose the real friend of the ‘Assamese’ people who according to him can never trust the Muslims.
These developments are clearly a case of greater strategy of the BJP-RSS brigade to spread their ideological root in this part. This is no new news for those who know about their ideology and their functioning formula; however the cause of concern is that this part of India has a totally different socio political set up that can be vitiated with the coming of the new found emphasis of Hinduism. Therefore, the time has come when common man choose between syncretism and communalism.
Dr. Pallavi Deka
( Dr. Pallavi Deka is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, JN College, Boko in Assam. The views expressed are the author's own)