My close friend Dudulmoni Sharma telephoned me the other day to tell about the Manikut Utsab of Hajo. He was highly impressed by its secular character and messages for Hindu-Muslim unity. Though I am not much enamored of the festival, as someone hailing from the area, I know the secular nature of our people. See how the common people are celebrating their unity and harmony and how the leaders, the rulers who are supposed to uphold secular values enshrined in our constitution are fermenting hatred and mistrust among people!
The ignominious example is none but the preaching of the second most important minister in the Sarbananda Sonowal cabinet. I believe he appeared in some self-managed interview recently. To watch television and still remain sane has become a difficult thing these days. For example if you are a regular viewer of Republic TV, I wonder if I could have a normal conversation with you on anything because this channel doesn’t believe in conversation. This channel is all about monologue, but no dialogue.
To watch a venomous interview of this minister you need the guts of a good crime officer. I know from my sources that this minister is very often supplied with materials and arguments by some of his crony professors and professionals. Once, when he was in the other camp, a medical officer and an award winning author was pressed into service in a late evening to pen a reply on big dam to be orated by this minister in the Assembly next day. Then, he was the blue eyed boy of the other chief minister.
It is no secret that most of the ministers don’t write their speeches. But Nehru and Indira Gandhi were different. Nehru was a writer par excellence. Indira Gandhi was also meticulous not only with her speeches, but with everything which went in her name. In his book “My Years with Indira Gandhi”, P C Alexander wrote about it in details and called Indira a ‘compulsive editor’. Forget those stalwarts. To take their names with the present lot is a sin.
Now what is this man doing? He is just spitting venom against a particular community. He is trying to make us believe that Assamese identity is not culture and language centric, it is a religious identity. These people don’t understand that culture, language and religion are three different and distinct categories. It is no wonder that there is little intermixing among the three. At times we may imbibe certain elements from religion to culture and language, but once these elements are absorbed and integrated they lose their religious origins and become secular.
In the same manner culture also influence religion in a culture zone and adds some extra flavor to the religious practices and rituals. The Assamese identity is marked by its culture and language. It is a secular identity. But the BJP which sees everything through the prism of religion has been desperately trying to analyze our identity in religious terms which is most dangerous and detrimental to our identity.
A little deviation here: why are we saying that the BJP is against the idea of India? India is not a religious entity. It is not even a linguistic entity. It is a pluralistic experience and ethos. BJP wants to turns it into a monolithic religious whole by isolating communities and creating religious divides among people for political ends. They are trying to repeat the same here in Assam by introducing Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, giving a twist to the question of citizenship.
The minister in question is desperately trying to create an Islamophobia in Assam, hurling all kinds of insults and innuendos at the Muslims living in the state. It is shocking that a minister who took the oath of office in the name of Indian Constitution can stoop so low and say all kinds of things against a particular religious community.
The good thing is people of Assam at large are not buying this divisive and communal propaganda and politics of the ruling party. The AASU, the KMSS, other political parties and civil society organizations, spearheading the anti Citizenship Bill movement are clear about their objectives. They have clearly stated it time and again that they are not against any religious and linguistic communities but against the foreigners who have come to Assam after 1971.
This time the movement has not deviated from its stated objectives. It has neither turned chauvinistic nor communal. This movement is in fact not against anybody, but for preserving the secular characteristics of Indian constitution. The ruling party has been rightly accused of attacking various institutions of Indian. I think Citizenship Bill is such an attack on our constitution.
The Constitution of India is very emphatic about its objective. The constitution repeatedly emphasizes that all sections of people will enjoy equal rights so far freedom of expression, belief of faith and worship and equal opportunities of livelihood are concerned. Here equality is the guiding motto. Under no circumstances, the Constitution of India allows any discrimination among its citizens on the basis of caste, creed, class and religion. That no government can change these fundamental objectives of the constitution was made clear by a full bench of the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case in 1973. While protesting against the Citizenship Bill, Assam is trying to protect the Constitution of India against the attack on it.