Exaggeration and rumours are harmful for the common man, because they hide the truth from the lie and give a wrong picture. So many things were said and written about the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) that we turned inimical to it. My first feelings towards the JPC changed when a trusted friend of mine informed me that it gave a patient hearing to Dr Hiren Gohain and his group for about 45 minutes. Then came the news that Akhil Gogoi argued before the JPC for about an hour. Another piece of good news.
On our part the Assam Nagarik Samaj delegation comprising Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, chief editor, Prag News, Prasanta Rajguru, editor, Amar Asom, DN Saikia, former Home Secretary, Government of Assam, Dr Akhil Ranjan Dutta, professor, Political Science, Gauhati University and myself reached the Assam Administrative Staff College at about 3 pm on that day. From stepping into the building to meeting the JPC, at every step we were welcomed and treated with courtesy. From the clerk to the top officer-in-charge of the event, everybody was cordial and ready to help. And what struck me more is the atmosphere inside the Administrative Staff College – as if for a day it all belonged to the people of Assam and not to some wooden headed and unfeeling politicians and bureaucrats, excepting the exception. There were people everywhere there. We were courteously seated by the friendly officers in a comfortable room. Of course we had to wait for a few hours though time allotted to us was 3 pm.
We represented before the JPC, may be around 6:45 pm or so and our interaction with them lasted for about 35 minutes. But the waiting was not boring and irritating, because all the time Rajguru and Dr Dutta treated us with the juicy and hilarious narratives of various political and journalistic anecdotes. I have already realised it that in the company of Rajguru and Bhuyan time always admits its defeat. It can’t wear you down. Instead it gets itself worn down. That evening too the same happened. But on this occasion, Bhuyan joined us – the listening party not the speaking brethren. After all the cordiality and reception, we were ushered into the room where JPC hearing was held. Oh! I was about to miss mentioning an important thing here. While registering our presence and memorandum, I had a glance of a gentleman sipping tea in an anteroom surrounded by his coterie. They were a big and audacious organisation, embroiled in controversies one after another. I had never seen anybody sipping tea in such style and acting. This gentleman has been acting and pausing all the time after occupying a coveted post to which he was thought to be unfit. I felt sorry for him that even in sipping tea and sitting with his loyalists, he had to be aware of his demeanour and act it continually!
Just before our turn, two other organisations presented their brief before the JPC. One was Asom Sahitya Sabha and the other All Assam Lawyers’ Association. The person speaking for the layers’ association made a strong pitch denouncing the bill. When our turn came, Bhuyan briefly spoke about the salient features of our memorandum and informed the members of the JPC that though it was a five-member delegation of the Assam Nagarik Samaj, our memorandum had the approval and consent of more than 70 eminent personalities from different walks of life from the society. In my supplementary comments, I elaborated this point further. But there was a flutter when a member of the JPC pointed out to the second part of our memorandum where we said: “It was reported in the newspapers that the chairman of the JPC had said somewhere that there should not be any problem in offering citizenship to Hindu foreigners as the country was partitioned on the basis of religion. This comment of the chairman of the JPC was most surprising! JPC was formed for public hearing on the bill. Such partisan views on the part of the JPC chairman before the public hearing was most uncalled for and objectionable. If the government has already decided their mind on the bill why is this facade in the name of public hearing? We feel extremely offended by this public utterance of the JPC chairman.” He said that they were hearing this allegation from many throughout the day and there it was before them in black and white. He wanted to know from us where was it reported first and told us that it could turn into a privilege issue. Here, Rajguru came forward and taking the cudgels on our behalf said that it was reported everywhere in the print and electronic media including the newspaper edited by him and he was ready to face any consequence of a privilege move for this. While this commotion was on, the chairman of the JPC kept smiling. Here other members intervened and downplayed the thing. Thus ended our tryst with the JPC on a positive note.
Now the point is if the JPC was so nice, good and cordial, why didn’t they come to Assam earlier and why did they keep only a day for hearing in Assam? How could they give patient hearing to all the groups and delegations just in a day? Very pertinent questions. I think the JPC was not encouraged to come to Assam by the Assam Government. Do you remember when sometime back it was reported in the media that JPC was not willing to come to Assam as Government of Assam was unable to provide the necessary security to it? The report was never refuted by the state government. I think the JPC’s coming to Assam and fixing only a day for hearing here and all the preceding dillydallying was the handiwork of the Assam Government. It seems they are the responsible ones. Therefore, our ire should be directed against the state government not against the JPC. The stance taken by the Meghalaya Government should be the eye opener for them. We should also know that the JPC is not a government body, it is the representative conglomerate of all the political parties.