Citizen (Amendment) Bill
Thousands taking part in a protest rally being taken out against Citizen (Amendment) Bill 2016 in Jorhat on Sunday. Photo credit: UB Photos

More than 20 organizations of the state came together here to take out a massive public rally on Sunday in protest against the Centre’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The Bill which proposes to give citizenship to Hindu migrants along with a few other communities except Muslims, from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, is being opposed by all sections of the Assamese community.

Assam already reeling under a huge burden of illegal migrants from Bangladesh after partition in 1947 cannot afford to take on an additional burden of migrants which is likely if the Bill becomes an Act.

Among the speakers firebrand leader of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) Akhil Gogoi slammed the BJP for dividing society on religious lines.

Gogoi said that the people of Assam had come out as one in the sweltering heat to save themselves from extinction as their representatives chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had turned out to be lackeys of the RSS-BJP combine, who were bent on destroying Assam, the indigenous people of this land, their language, culture and existence.

“I am an Ahom and my ancestors came to this region in 1228. Many Muslims had also come to this region prior to that.  Nobody can tell us that Assamese Hindus and Muslims cannot live together in this region. If Narendra Modi or Mohan Bhagwat tells us this we will chuck them into the Brahmaputra,” Gogoi said.

Gogoi further cautioned that even if the Bill was not passed by the Government in the Parliament due to protests, the threat hung over the Assamese society would remain as three executive orders passed by the Centre since September 7, 2015 had granted amenities and facilities like property ownership, trade licenses, employment to the Hindu illegal migrants from Bangladesh who entered India till December 31, 2014, barring voting rights and the right to contest elections.

All Tea Tribes Students Association assistant general secretary Dhiraj Gowala in his address appealed to all the MLAs and MPs belonging to the tea tribe community to unite against the Bill as this was an issue close to the people’s hearts and had evoked widespread outcry.

Gowala further warned that if any legislature of the community supported the Bill, he or she would have to face the ire of ATTSA. Palash Changmai, president, AJYCP, cautioned the people against diluting the agitation, until the Centre scrapped the Bill.

Ashwini Chetia, advisor, Assam Tai Ahom Students Union, said that vote bank politics would not be tolerated nor would politics on communal lines be allowed here.

He further said that this was not a fight or opposition to Assam’s Bengali community as made out to be, but of protecting the culture and identity of Assamese.

Pradip Nag, president, All Assam Adivasi Students Association  also said that AASAA opposed the Bill and spoke about how the Centre had denied them St status despite making election promises.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com