The extra-constitutional and blatantly anti-Assam Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has clearly assumed a killer look and a lot more worse and threatening posture than the Sword of Damocles for the sons and daughters of the soil of Assam as well as the Northeast. Metaphorically speaking, the sword precariously hangs on the thinnest of saffron thread over the heads of the indigenous people of the region, courtesy the gleeing saffron brigade at the Centre and in Dispur. And why not glee?
The primary agenda of the saffron powerhouse, of which the BJP is the over ground political wing, is to realize a Hindu Rashtra, complete if possible or at least partial, through derailment of the secular structure of the Constitution of India. The secularism profoundly enshrined in the paramount law of the nation, guaranteeing freedom of religious faiths, constitute one of the cornerstones of the basic framework of the constitution as per several rulings of the Supreme Court of India. Further, the apex court has also unambiguously stated that the basic structure of the constitution cannot be amended and that any such move shall be deemed as unconstitutional.
Historically speaking, it was during the days of Emergency blackout that was savagely imposed on the nation by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that the constitution was subjected to barbaric gang rape, causing all fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution to fall by the wayside.
The Emergency period was the darkest era in the history of independent India with Indira Gandhi wielding absolute and dictatorial power by sending all her political opponents to jail. However, there was one area which she left untouched. She allowed the secular fabric and the rights of all religions to remain intact and undiluted.
On the other hand, while no Emergency is in place officially as of now, the saffron powerhouse is seemingly putting in all efforts to get its Hindutva agenda rolling in sheer defiance of the equality of all religions and practice as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. For the sons and daughters of the soil of Assam as well as the Northeast, the emerging scenario appears to be so nightmarish that one begins to wonder if an undeclared and roving saffron emergency is in place, courtesy Dispur, Nagpur and Delhi.
While the BJP came to power at the Centre in 2014, it captured the seat of power at Dispur in 2016. The victory in Assam was immediately followed by the announcement of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which apparently has two primary objectives – firstly to promote, encourage (and who knows, may be even sponsor through a billion dollar secret project) the entry of crores of Hindu Bangladeshi to Assam and secondly bless the Hindu foreigners with immediate granting of Indian citizenship.
Certainly, that may not be the end of the package of blessings to the Hindu Bangladeshis (turned Indian). One can very well imagine that rehabilitation package, employment package, land rights package and the like would automatically follow for the newly Indian Hindu Bangladeshi nationals.
The implementation of the strategy would, among others factors, guarantee a two-fold permanent benefit to the saffron brigade. Its Hinduvta agenda in Assam would be complete while crores of Hindu Bangladeshi (turned Indian) voters would become permanent vote-bank for the BJP for all times to come. In the emergence of such a scenario, there would be none to challenge the BJP in any election, presumably for all times.
Over the last few months, the BJP leadership, both at the Centre and the State, took to burning of midnight oil 24×7 to work out a strategy to get the obnoxious Bill passed in the Winter Session of the Parliament which indeed is the last session of the present House before the nation goes to the polls in the early part of 2019. Several despicable dramas have also been enacted by the ruling dispensation on this count. One such drama was the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) hearing fiasco vide which the Committee blessed the three districts of the Barak Valley with two days of hearing while the 30 districts of the Brahmaputra Valley, which has been openly condemning the Bill, was given just 1 day of hearing.
Meanwhile, as a back up and reinforcement to the Bill, the Centre has installed a ‘backdoor’ to the Bill. Vide a notification; the Central Government has empowered the Collectors (Deputy Commissioners) of 16 districts in 7 States to grant citizenship to non-Muslim foreigners (overwhelmingly Hindus) who have entered India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Although Assam is not among the seven States named in the notification, any such foreigner can become a citizen of India in any of the 16 districts and then move on to any other State. On the other hand, the way the ruling BJP is openly playing the communal card in respect of foreigners (read as Bangladeshis) in Assam, while through notifications (and possibly would-be ordinances) and the like is apparently paving the way to fling open the floodgates for the entry of hoards of Hindu Bangladeshis in sheer defiance of the thunderous voice of the locals against the Bill, one only feels that the empowerment of the 16 collectors to grant citizenship to non-Muslim foreigners is only the beginning of a backdoor strategy of the Centre.
Many more Collectors in several other districts across India may also be empowered to carry out the same exercise in the coming days. Further, the manner in which the BJP-led Union and State Governments as well as the JPC turned a deaf ear to the die-hard opposition to the Bill by indigenous people of the Brahmaputra valley, one apparently has all the reason to suspect that all such empowerment of Collectors in different States may finally lead to crorers of Hindu foreigners (mainly Bangladeshis) landing up in Assam as citizens of India.
Again, as per media reports, if the Centre fails to get the anti-Assam Bill passed in the Parliament in the Winter Session, pressure is mounting from various quarters of the Sangh Parivar, including BJP heavyweights, to issue an ordinance encompassing the provisions of the Bill. In other words the Hindutva strategy of the saffron dispensation is clear – if the front door is found locked, try entry stealthily through the backdoor. Flouting all constitutional provisions in respect of citizenship, no distinction is apparently being made between fair and foul. In the words of William Shakespeare, the motto behind the drive of the riling BJP appears to be “Fair is foul, foul is fair”.
While some organizations in Assam have already raised their voice against the empowerment of the 16 Collectors in the matter of granting citizenship, it is unlikely that there may be anyone at the Centre or in Dispur to lend an ear to the same. After all the entire political philosophy of the saffron brigade is deeply rooted in hard-line Hindutva.
An analysis of the emerging scenario clearly indicates that the Centre is hell-bent on laying a red carpet to foreigners (mainly Hindu Bangladeshis in crores) by adopting even ‘by hook or by crook’ methods like issuance of notifications, ordinances and other draconian devices. Again, in view of the pre-determined approach in respect of the issue adopted hitherto by Delhi, Dispur and the JPC, a good deal of fascist measures to be enforced by the ruling dispensation to bulldoze its way, defying all public outcry, cannot be ruled out. At the end of the day indigenous people’s organizations may be left with the only option of approaching the Supreme Court against all the extra-constitutional moves of the Centre in respect of citizenship.
However, the silver lining in the dark cloud is that constitutionally speaking, the indigenous people of Assam are immensely empowered to defeat all sinister design of any power within the country. Armed with the peace and communal harmonymantraof Mahapurush Sankardeva and Azan Pir, ‘Saraighat’ demands that within the framework of the law, the indigenous people must protect their culture, language, religion and ‘jati, mati & bheti’.
Zaheer Akram Bora is a Guwahati based journalist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org