Lawyers staging protest against CAA in Assam. Image credit: Daily World
Lawyers staging protest against CAA in Assam. Image credit: Daily World

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is the new law and has come to stay. It is not a surprise to the politically conscious. The day the people of Assam overwhelmingly voted for the BJP in the last Lok Sabha election, the die was cast.

It may be noted that in the matter of bringing in the Bill in the Parliament, the BJP never cheated anyone. Even before the Election Commission officially announced  the holding of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP president (now also Union Home Minister) Amit Shah announced in Assam that if voted to power the party would re-introduce the CAB in the Parliament.

Beginning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the same announcement was made by a host of BJP heavyweights in the election campaign in Assam, while the same was made into a promise in the 2019 election manifesto of the saffron party.

On that count that BJP only abided by its commitment, with the final result being the Bill becoming an Act. Interestingly, there was not even a whisper of protest from any corner of Assam in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

It may be highly pertinent at this stage to recall that while the CAB-2016 had lapsed in 2018 on account of the ruling dispensation’s lack of the requisite strength in the Rajya Sabha, the months that preceded this stage of the earlier Bill in 2018 witnessed massive protest against it with Assam virtually turning into a boiling cauldron.

However, the leaders that led and are still leading protest movements against CAB (now CAA) went into hibernation immediately after the Election Commission officially announced the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. For months together these leaders vanished into oblivion and there was none to ask the people to oppose CAB-2016.

It is ordinary common sense that if any protest against the new CAB announcement was to be made, it should have been in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Had the anti-CAB leaders, in particular two of them, who had earlier led the anti-CAB movement played a similar role prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the election results in all probability might have been drastically different. Alas that was not to be!

Having disappeared from public domain throughout the election period and beyond involving several months, these leaders who have mastered the art of vanishing when most desired to be in the limelight, once again sprang into action with loud anti-CAB protests after the new version of the CAB was placed in the Parliament with absolute certainty of its safe passage in terms of numbers in the Central legislature

While roars against CAA reverberate across Assam, it was/is crystal clear to the political observer that a losing battle against the new CAB (now CAA) was/is being waged.

The hard truth that deserves emphasis is that the BJP’s poll manifesto promise to re-introduce a new CAB was like a referendum before the people of Assam at the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

And the people voted overwhelmingly for the BJP in nine out in a total of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam; percent wise in 64.3 percent of the constituencies the people voted for the BJP when politically speaking every such vote was a vote in favour of the upcoming CAB. This is a bitter political reality that the vast majority of people of Assam cannot deny.

Further, an analysis of the last Lok Sabha poll results makes it clear as daylight that those sections of the people of the state who boast to be ‘more indigenous’ than others stood solidly by the BJP in the 2019 polls.

The nine of the 14 seats bagged by the BJP are overwhelmingly populated by the sons and daughters of the soil of Assam. The ruling party made a clean sweep in upper Assam and south Assam; in middle Assam the results proved to be roughly 60% in favour of the BJP and 40% in favour of the opposition.  It was only in lower and west Assam that the saffron juggernaut ran into some rough and bumpy electoral terrain winning one of the four seats in the region.

Significantly, over the last couple of months or so, several columns by this writer have appeared in the media stating that considering the numerical strength of the BJP dispensation along with allies and supporting parties in the Lower and upper House of the Parliament, the new Bill becoming an Act was a reality and that the people of the state have almost forfeited the right to oppose the same by voting in its favour in the 2019 polls.

Today, after the CAA has come to stay, a conscious observer may only assert that the ruling saffron brigade never imposed the new CAB (now CAA) and had left it to the wisdom of the people to convey their opinion through their votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The results were not only a delight to the saffronists but also led to eruption of jubilation and celebration in the camps of those claiming to be ‘more indigenous’ and pristine pure than others.

So far as Assam and the new law (CAA) is concerned, it is all about making Hindu Bangladeshis Indian citizens, a major advancement of RSS-BJP in the roadmap towards realization of a Hindu Rashtra. The Act pertains to granting Indian citizenship to hoards of Hindu Bangladeshis (numbers not disclosed by the Government – hence it could be even tens or millions) who had entered India upto December 31, 2014 and are presently settled at least temporarily under government protection in Assam.

The fact remains that they need to be provided land, bread and shelter or roti, kapda aur maakaan. No matter how much the State BJP heavyweights try to camouflage the issue, the writing is loud and clear on the wall that land will not come from Gujarat or UP but will have to be arranged from within the territorial limits of Assam.

Can the BJP government dare to bring out a white (or even a white-wash) paper on the number of indigenous people without an inch of land in the state? Again, demography of Assam will suffer an irreversible impact as the Hindu Bangladeshis have their own language and culture.

Still worse, the indigenous people face the imminent threat of being reduced to a minority in their home state. Further with the Chalo Paltai movement silently at work, the 2021 census itself may project the indigenous population of Assam as a minority.

However, the threat to the Assamese and other indigenous population of the state does not end here. The new Act would facilitate the Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants who entered the state till December 31, 2014 in becoming citizens.

What about those who had immigrated thereafter till date? What about those who would continue to enter the state from now onwards in the decades to come?

While the Centre banks on the real/imaginary boggy of persecution of minorities in Bangladesh without a whisper of protest before Dhaka or raising the same in international bodies like the UNO, one may be on the right track in assuming that the present CAA could be the first of such Acts; possibly a non-ending chain of CAAs may be in store in the decades to come.

Talmizur Rahman

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