citizenship-ammendment-bill-2016
Representative image.

There is no dearth of pretenders in this nation.

These hypocrites often enact a drama that they were/are not aware of a certain development or truth which in turn has led/is leading to a chain of developments counter to their interests.

Still more condemnable is the fact that they are often a party to the emergence of such development or truth.

In respect of the highly controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), a huge section of the the mighty-mouthed indigenous communities of Assam is proving to be pretenders in the superlative degree if the 2019 poll results are to be taken into consideration.

Recalling the emergence of the CAB, the people may be told that in respect of Assam, the purpose of the Bill that lapsed at the end of the last Lok Sabha was to make the State the home for tens of millions of illegal Hindu immigrants (Hindu Bangladeshis) who have already entered the State till 2014.

The reason cited is persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh.

Significantly, New Delhi never raised a voice against such alleged persecution before Dhaka or international bodies like the UNO.

This leads to one pondering as to how genuine of how imaginary the allegation may be.

Most unfortunately, not a single son/daughter of the indigenous communities of Assam could so far dare to question Delhi on the authenticity of the allegation.

Representational image
Representational image

At this juncture it may be pointed out that so far as the CAB is considered, in the case of Assam, it is the Hindu Bangladeshis that matter and not the Hindu Pakistanis or the Hindu Afghans.

The protection granted to the illegal Hindu immigrants under the BIll of 2016 was also granted, at least theoretically, to people of all other religions, except the Muslims.

In one word, the Bill made it clear that only Muslims were foreigners.

Further, it was clear that illegal immigrants who were Christian, Sikh or Buddhist could possibly be counted at fingertips so far as Assam or the Northeast was concerned.

A large section of the people of the State appears to be under the impression that the Bill lapsed in 2018 because the huge protest against it in Assam and other north-eastern states around the time it was under consideration in the Parliament.

The people of the State perhaps need to be told a million times the hard historical truth that the Bill failed to sail through the Parliament as the opposition parties that commanded majority in the Rajya Sabha opposed the Bill.

Another bitter truth is that if the people are ignorant of the law or the Parliamentary system, the blame must squarely be shouldered by the people themselves.

So far as the upcoming CAB in its new version is concerned, the fundamental essence, in all likelihood, would be the same as the CAB of 2016.

If the aggressive Hindutva ideology/philosophy of the RSS-BJP is to be the yardstick, it seems to be an absolute certainty that, as did the earlier CAB, the upcoming version of the Bill would provide for granting ‘mati and bheti‘ for legal settlement of hoards of Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants who have entered Assam up to 2014.

Who knows if the year 2014 is extended further to 2018 or 2019 or even into the future years.

While other provisions the Bill may be a matter of speculation at this stage, it is certain that in the next step these Hindu Bangladeshis would attain citizenship of India.

The ruling BJP dispensation at the Centre has already made several announcements that a new version of the CAB would be introduced in the Parliament in the Winter Session.

On this count, by no stretch of imagination can the BJP be blamed.

Even before the Election Commission made the announcement for the 2019 parliamentary polls, the ruling BJP declared in unambiguous terms that the party would bring in the CAB once again if the party was to be voted to power.

Again, all through the election campaign in Assam, the saffron heavyweights beginning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then party president Amit Shah and others announced the same in numerous meetings.

Further, one of the most important features of the BJP’s poll manifesto was the promise to bring in the CAB.

It was in the backdrop of such a no hide-and-seek electoral reality that the Lok Sabha polls were held in 2019 and the indigenous people voted overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP in upper Assam and south Assam.

In middle Assam, the gains made by the saffronists and the opposition parties were almost even; it was only in lower and western Assam that the BJP failed to put up an impressive performance.

In terms of seats nine out of 14 seats were bagged by the BJP while percentage wise BJP won approximately 64.3 per cent of the total Lok Sabha seats in Assam.

The fact that the promise to bring in the CAB constituted a very important part of the BJP’s poll manifesto so far as Assam and the north-eastern states were concerned, it was almost as good as a referendum at the polls for the people; and the people extended whole hearted support.

Now that the BJP is all set to bring in the CAB, in the fitness of things the peple of Assam and the Northeast have virtually lost all rights to oppose the same the day they voted overwhelmingly for the BJP with BJP’s poll manifesto prominently in front of them in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

However, as of now, protest against the upcoming CAB is brewing up in Assam and some other north-eastern states.

Protest
Representative file image of protest against Citizenship Bill in Northeast.

Significantly, mighty-mouthed social activists, student leaders and their organizations that went into hibernation and absolute silence when the BJP heavyweights made repeated announcements on re-introducing CAB and proudly displayed its manifesto are beginning to reappear once again with mighty roar against the upcoming CAB.

May one have the audacity to ask as to why these leaders and organizations disappeared from the scene immediately after the Election Commission announced the holding of the Lok Sabha polls.

While all through the election campaign, the BJP leaders (heavyweights to village leaders) had gone hammer and tongs that the CAB would be brought in, the so called mighty social activists and student leaders chose not to utter a word against the CAB.

In fact nobody quite knows where those leaders disappeared.

May one ask as to what ‘magic’, ‘mantra’ or ‘management strategy’ initiated possibly by political demi-gods caused these so called leaders of social and students’ organizations to vanish throughout the election period.

Indeed ‘manage’ is a great term in the political arena of India; be it mega dam or CAB, almost anything and everything can be ‘managed’.

One is only reminded of Thomas Hardy’s watchword in ‘Jude The Obscure‘, “Money matter works better”.

Be that as it may, politics is essentially serious business and not fun and frolic.

It was in the early eighties that the former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu equated the Assam Movement against foreigners to a picnic.

“Assam Movement is like a picnic”, he had said.

Almost four decades since then, the Assam Accord which was the final outcome of the movement has proved to be a huge zero.

History has clearly vindicated Jyoti Basu’s ‘picnic’ statement.

It is high time that the people of Assam realized that politics and picnic are poles apart.

Voting for or against issues like CAB at the polls is a highly serious business and not fun, frolic and gaiety like a picnic.

One cannot eat the cake and have it.

Likewise, the people must accept the hard truth that they cannot rush to the polling booth and vote in favour of the CAB and soon after run to the streets and raise slogans against the CAB amidst a picnic-like milieu.

As of now, with the BJP, its allies and supporting parties exercising over two-thirds majority control in the Lok Sabha and almost the required majority in the Rajya Sabha, the CAB becoming an Act is as good as a reality.

From that standpoint, the people of Assam have already missed the bus.

Their pro-CAB representatives are already in the Parliament in huge numbers, fully geared up to ensure a safe passage of the Bill.

Rightly or wrongly, the people must accept the almost certain reality of the emergence of the CAB as an Act as a matter of their own making without blaming the BJP.

On the other hand, the protests against the CAB that are beginning to surface could very much be a blessing in disguise for the BJP government.

The way so many leaders opposed to CAB could be ‘managed’ to go into absolute silence prior to and during the polls, one never knows if there could be another ‘management strategy’ or ‘mantra’ at work for the beginning of a long period of protest against the CAB in order to keep the attention of the people away from the real issues.

It is now clear as daylight that an accelerating economic slowdown is dragging the nation towards an economic eclipse.

The BJP government has so far miserably failed to check the slowdown despite all high rhetoric.

Further, if this decline continues at this rate unchecked for some more time, an economic depression may come to stay according to some expert.

Hence, the government also needs some other issues to divert the peple’s attention from the down to earth reality like mounting unemployment, joblessness, sky-rocketing inflation and such other failures of the government.

One may thus sum up that CAB is a hard reality while a period of ‘picnic’ has already seemingly begun.

To remind the people once again, serious politics and picnic cannot go hand in hand.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com