Assam: Political history

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NDFB chief, 13 others guilty of blasts that killed 90

Pranjal Baruah, NDFB chief, 13 others guilty of ’08 Assam blasts that killed 90, January 29, 2019: The Times of India

A special fast-track court has found the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) chief and 13 others guilty of carrying out serial blasts in four Assam towns in 2008. More than 90 people were killed and around 400 others were wounded in the attack. The court will pronounce the quantum of punishment.

Two of those convicted are women. Mridul Goyari — one of the 22 accused — was acquitted. NDBF chief Ranjan Daimary, who was out on bail, was re-arrested and sent to jail soon after the verdict was announced.

CBI had sought capital punishment for the convicts, according to investigator NS Yadav. “We recorded statements of about 650 witnesses and examined 687 exhibits or documentary evidence,” he said. The CBI had taken charge of the investigation from Assam police.

In 2010, Daimary was arrested near Bangladesh and the trial for the case was initiated in 2011. It ended eight years later on January 22. The special court was set up in 2017, after families of the blast casualties demanded a fasttrack trial in the case.

George Boro, Ajoy Basumatary, Rajendra Goyari, Onsai Boro, Rahul Brahma, Lakra Basumatary, Baishagi Basumatary, Indra Brahma, Raju Sarkar, Jayanti Brahma, Mathuram Brahma, Nilim Daimary and Prabhat Boro were among those convicted along with Ranjan Daimary.

Families and friends of Daimary and other convicts, who had come to the court for the hearing, sought their release. They said they were planning to move the high court against the verdict. “Conviction and peace talks can’t go together,” said Anjali Daimary, the NDFB chief ’s sister, and a social activist.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

Speaker protests against Citizenship Bill, BJP red-faced

Prabin Kalita, January 10, 2019: The Times of India

In an embarrassment to BJP, Assam assembly speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami on Wednesday said the decision to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the Lok Sabha was an act “in haste” which was done without “taking the indigenous people of Assam into confidence”. He urged the Centre to ensure protection of the state’s indigenous people on the basis of the 1985 Assam Accord.

Goswami, a former Asom Gana Parishad minister who joined BJP in 2016, said in a statement, “The waves of incidents centred around the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 here in (the) past few days have touched me personally.”

The legislator from Jorhat said: “While holding a constitutional post, along with my personal hopes, it is my duty to show respect to my country’s democratic system.”

Goswami said a Speaker need not opine on the enactment of a law. However, he added, “I think that the central and state governments would give respect to the views and

opinions expressed by the people of Assam and adopt immediate and appropriate measures to resolve the present unrest in the state which has been created after Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in haste without taking the people of Assam into confidence.”

The Speaker further said that his “conscience does not allow (him) to support any action, which the indigenous people of Assam do not want to accept because it could destroy the unity and harmony among the people”.

Goswami’s is the second voice of dissent from within BJP against the amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955. On Tuesday, soon after the Lok Sabha passed the bill, former Assam BJP spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora resigned from the party. In Meghalaya, BJP’s minister in the Conrad Sangma cabinet, AL Hek, said he too supported the state government’s resolution against the Bill.

Meanwhile, two days after the AGP walked out of its alliance with BJP in the Assam government, another ally, Bodoland People’s Front protested against the Bill.

Zubeen starts own stir

Pranjal Baruah, Bill protesters form a 10-km human chain, January 18, 2019: The Times of India

Singer Zubeen Garg with Nipen Hazarika, brother of late singer Bhupen Hazarika, during a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Assam’s Tezpur
From: Naresh Mitra, January 18, 2019: The Times of India

Zubeen Garg, thesinger who sang the official song of BJP’s 2016 poll campaign in Assam, has expressed regret over his association with the party.

Launching his own protest campaign against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 at Tezpur in Sonitpur district on Thursday, coinciding with ‘Shilpi Divas’, a day observed annually to pay homage to noted Assamese playwright Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, Zubeen said, “I don’t support any political party. I sang for BJP thinking the Sarbananda Sonowalled government would respect and do the needful for the state’s people. But if this government plays foul then I am going to stand against them too.” Several fans, locals and students gathered at the venue to listen to Zubeen on Thursday.

In Jorhat’s Selenghat area, locals formed a 10-km human chain to mark their protest. Protests and road blockades were reported


Identity issues

Kaushik Deka , A Hindu headache for the BJP “India Today” 20/3/2017

Tensions are running high in Assam after the March 6 ransacking of an All Assam Students Union (AASU) office in Silapathar, a town in the state's Dhemaji district. Three people were reported injured in the attack, perpetrated by an obscure group, the Nikhil Bharat Bangali Udbastu Samanvay Samiti (NBBUS), seeking citizenship for Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. AASU led a six-year movement against illegal immigration into the state, resulting in the 1985 Assam Accord, which, broadly, granted citizenship rights only to those who had moved to the state before 1971.

AASU is deeply influential, with key players in the Assam government, including the chief minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, being former members or leaders. But, as a critic of all immigration to Assam from Bangladesh, whether Hindu or Muslim, it found itself in the crosshairs of NBBUS, allegedly associated with the R.S.S and virulently opposed to the idea of citizenship as outlined in the Accord. It is the association with the R.S.S that makes it so uncomfortable for the BJP-led NDA government. The BJP won 60 of the 89 assembly seats it contested last year, a commanding performance in a state in which 35 per cent of the population is Muslim.

Since the Sonowal government took oath on May 24 last year, it has been brazen about its 'Hindu first' agenda. State finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma argued that the Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016), which seeks to naturalise (non-Muslim) minorities persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was necessary because Assamese people needed the support of their Hindu Bengali brothers to ward off the Muslim threat. In December, R.S.S volunteers sparked anger by shouting "Hindu-Hindu, bhai-bhai" and "Bharat mata ki jai" from the top of the 18th century Kareng Ghar, an Ahom palace and protected monument.

Earlier, Sarma, as education minister, ordered state-recognised madrassas to remain open on Fridays. "Madrassas are closed on Fridays in Pakistan and Bangladesh, not in India," he said. In February, CM Sonowal tweeted the government's decision to make Sanskrit compulsory up to the 8th standard. Even ministers in his own cabinet sided with the Opposition in opposing the decision. Sarma now says "practical difficulties" mean the order will not be implemented. Sonowal, when contacted, insisted that "the decision [had] not yet been discarded".

The mixed message is typical of a confused government, caught between its commitment to Hindutva and the priorities of the Assamese people.


January: Bandh over ST status to 6 groups

Pranjal Baruah, January 12, 2019: The Times of India

The Centre’s move to grant schedule tribe status to six communities — Tai Ahoms, Koch Rajbongshis, Chutiyas, Tea Tribes, Morans and Mataks — has had a ripple effect in Assam with the Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations of Assam giving a call for a 12-hour statewide bandh. The CCTOA has alleged that the Centre’s move will severely impact the development and reservations currently given to Assam’s existing tribal groups.

AGP quits govt., BJP still has 61 MLAs in House of 126

Prabin Kalita, January 8, 2019: The Times of India

While BJP argues that India is the natural saviour for minorities, especially Hindus, subject to discriminatory laws and violence in neighbouring countries, in the case of “economic migrants”, mainly Muslims, it points to the “threat” of demographic invasion that changes the religious and social balance and says such persons are illegals who must not enjoy state benefits.

While BJP is under fire in Assam for “violating” the Assam Accord, its leaders like Himanta Biswa Sarma have warned that rejecting the citizenship bill will mean making Assamese Hindus a minority in the next five years. BJP is hoping to drive home the argument that giving Bengali-speaking Hindus’ citizenship will be worth it as it will help counter unwelcome demographic change, hoping its support to the national register of citizens embellishes its credentials.

Like most Assam and northeast-based organisations, AGP has been opposing the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act tooth and nail. On many occasions in the past, it issued warnings to BJP. AGP’s exit will not pose any threat to BJP, which has 61 MLAs of its own in the 126-member assembly and still has the support of the Bodoland People’s Front (12 seats) and one Independent.

AGP, born out of almost a decade of anti-foreigners agitation in the 1970s and ’80s, quit the ruling alliance immediately after its representatives led by its president, Atul Bora, met Union home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi.

Two AGP ministers, Phani Bhushan Choudhury and Keshab Mahanta, are likely to resign from the ministry along with Bora soon. Many AGP leaders serving as chairpersons and managing directors of state-run PSUs are likely to quit their posts

Assam erupts in protest, BJP office attacked in Meghalaya

Rajib Dutta, Anup Dutta & Kangkan Kalita , January 8, 2019: The Times of India

Assam erupted in protest on Monday against the Centre’s decision to approve the JPC report on the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, with some of the demonstrators even stripping naked. In Dibrugarh, members of All Assam Students’ Union (Aasu) staged a protest in front of CM Sarbananda Sonowal’s house, raising slogans against BJP. Aasu activists also burned copies of the bill in Jorhat, Golaghat, Sonitpur, Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh and Dhemaji districts. In Guwahati, Aasu activists burned copies of the bill at 70 locations. Keeping political rivalry aside, former CMs Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Tarun Gogoi joined ‘Dhikkar Divas’ (condemnation day) against the Bill in Guwahati.

In neighbouring Meghalaya, BJP’s Shillong office was attacked by unidentified miscreants. The attack is believed to be a fallout of resentment over the Bill. Police sources said three Molotov cocktails were found around the office and two to three miscreants are believed to have been involved. No arrest has been made yet.

Assam students’ body ‘bans’ BJP leaders in colleges

Naresh Mitra, January 14, 2019: The Times of India

The student body of Gauhati University, one of the most prominent universities of the northeast, on Sunday decided to stop BJP legislators and members from entering the campuses of the university and colleges affiliated to it until the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is withdrawn. The decision comes as the protests against the Bill grew stronger.

BJP suspends Bengali leader for anti-Assamese talk

Naresh Mitra, January 14, 2019: The Times of India

‘His Remark Over Bill Could Fuel Tension’

Assam BJP suspended its leader from the Bengali-majority Barak Valley, Pradip Dutta Roy, for making “communal” remarks at a time when the state is in the grip of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

“Pradip Dutta Roy has been suspended from the party with immediate effect ... for going against party discipline and taking a stand that goes against the party’s principles,” Assam BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass said.

On Wednesday, a section of students at the Assam University in Silchar had staged a protest rally against the bill. A day later, another section staged a rally in support of the bill. The same day, Dutta had said, “I will write to the vice-chancellor to take action against students who are indulging in politics by staging protests against the bill ... Otherwise, Assamese students will be stopped from studying at the university.”

The Cotton University Students’ Union and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad lodged FIRs against him while the All Assam Students’ Union demanded arrest.

“Dutta’s remarks could fuel tension between the people of the Barak Valley and the Brahmaputra Valley,” a BJP leader said. Coming under fire, Dutta retracted his statement.

See also

Assam: The citizenship/ foreigners/ illegal migration issue

Assam: Political history

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