The Final Nail, Chief Minister Sir


The Final Nail, Chief Minister Sir

Rrituraj Sharma | January 21, 2019 14:07 hrs

More than half of the first month of 2019 is already over. After a few hundred days, we will land into 2020. I remember, at the turn of the millennium, there were many 2020 visions of nations, corporate and progressive thinkers. In 2014, the people of India voted for a BJP government at the centre and two years later, the people of Assam were exhilarated to have a BJP majority government in the state. There was hope. There was positive anticipation. There was comfort that this team will surely deliver. What the AGP couldn’t do in 10 years, what the Congress couldn’t (read didn’t) do in 20 long years, there was hope that BJP will fulfil the vision of a better Axom, despite all odds. And hence, the election slogan of ‘Jaati, Maati aru Bheti’ (community, land and base) resonated so well with the masses. 


But alas! As we are headed for the year 2020, a shadow has been cast on the intent of this slogan. And this shadow will not go away with a rhetorical speech by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal that he delivered at the historic Nehru Bali, Nagaon claiming that ‘Jaati, Maati aru Bheti’ will surely be secured. I mean, how? People’s trust has been shattered and they want to know how the Chief Minister would ensure this! His determination to make the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 (CAB) a law clearly shows that, to remove a larger cancer, he wants to introduce a smaller one. Doesn’t he know that a cancer always grows bigger? And spreads, too? How could letting foreigners become Indian citizens to help secure political power by indigenous Assamese in 17 constituencies be a permanent solution for the state? Was the sacrifice of 855 martyrs of the Assam Movement meant for such a temporary solution? For a moment let’s assume that the electoral data provided by the Sonowal government for these 17 constituencies is correct. But can he assure that after 10-15+ years, indigenous people will still continue to retain political supremacy in these electorates?


Before we go any further, let’s take a step back from the discussion of CAB and talk about the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The initiation of NRC itself by the BJP government is such a positive step. True, the Congress also attempted to do a pilot project earlier, but the actual implementation happened during the BJP regime. So let’s give it to the BJP for now. However, the first draft of NRC showed that names of several prominent Assamese families were missing. This also means that there is every possibility that many wrong names, through fraud documentation, may have been included in the register. The government has also acknowledged this in various forums. So, instead of finalising the NRC, instead of rectifying the drawbacks of the NRC process, instead of ensuring that the NRC necessarily includes the names of bona fide citizens only, why is there an attempt to regularise immigrants who may have entered the country by illegal means? Ok, I understand if the Central BJP leadership insists on implementing CAB from a pan-India perspective.  There could be and there are compelling reasons for that. However, Assam has to be made an exception to this. And why do we have to tell this to the government? Is it not aware of it? As colonnades of the Assam Agitation, is the Chief Minister not sensitive to this fact?


Assam is already in the midst of an extremely complicated demographic transition. Because of lack of initiative by previous governments, there has been unabated movement of people from across the border. Clause 5 of the Assam Accord talks about deportation. But we all know that this is realistically next to impossible. So, what is the solution then? Let’s assume again that the government has rectified the NRC and has identified a few lakh illegal migrants residing in the state who do not have their names in the electoral rolls. In a few years from now, they will multiply and grow. Even if they cannot vote and elect governments, they will cause enough pressure on the social landscape and tilt the demography of the entire state further. This will then start reflecting in all aspects of the society including language, culture, traditions, customs … everywhere. The CAB will just add fuel to this fire that will prove utterly grievous to Assam. When the state government’s thinking machinery should actually be strategizing and networking with the central leadership as to how to deport these illegal migrants and to where, it is focussed on something that is definitely going to break the fundamental fabric of our society. 


Its still not too late for the Chief Minister to reassure the people of Assam that he actually can be the harbinger of change and can truly protect our ‘Jaati, Maati aru Bheti’. But for this, he will need to take some stringent actions and show meaningful results. (1) The Chief Minister’s immediate focus should be on a near accurate NRC. (2) Post that, he will have to find a solution of what to do with the identified illegal migrants. A radical and complex problem that we have in Assam also needs an equally radical solution. He should discuss with his central leadership and ensure that these illegal migrants are taken out of Assam/Northeast and settled in other states of India. A formidable challenge, we know. But this is definitely easier than deporting them to the country that they originally belong to, isn’t it? (3) He should please ensure that the land rights of this lot are clearly defined. (4) Next, he should ask the central leadership to exclude Assam from the clutches of CAB. Persuade them is necessary. This is a basic ask from his electorate. BJP doesn’t require this to win centrally in 2019, then why let the state burn? We don’t want another Khargeswar Talukdar¬! We don’t want our students to lose an academic year! And it the Chief Minister’s responsibility to ensure this. It’s the 21st century, we need to progress hand-in-hand with the rest of the world. We can’t be out on the streets protesting just because he and his ministry have not been able to convince their central leadership. (5) He should please introspect why people appointed to implement Clause 6 of Assam Accord have already expressed their intention to leave the committee. Assurances to implement the above suggestions may hold them back. (6) Additionally, if BJP has a real intention of reserving seats for Khilonjiyas, this is the time to firmly commit to that. (7) And yes, he should seal the border for God’s sake! Even Trump is attempting to build a wall. With the BJP at the centre and the state, surely the Chief Minister can find the means of doing it. 


The Assamese are a kind lot, amiable, forgiving. But we will not forget. Not again, not anymore. If the current government focuses on the right priorities now, the Assamese will still believe it when they say that they will protect our Jaati, Maati aru Bheti. We will still let them lead our state into the paths of progress. We have trusted them with this, haven’t we? We will renew that trust, yet once again. But if it continues to tread against this mass uprising, this could just be the final nail for the Chief Minister! This could be just the final nail in the coffin and Assam once again will be left leaderless, headless, as well as pushed a few decades back, grappling to make strides into 2020 and beyond. We, as Assamese, need to rise above this and the Chief Minister needs to facilitate this. In Bhupen da’s words, নতুনৰ গতি খেদা/ডেকা গাভৰু আমি/নিৰ্ভীক কুৰি শতিকাৰ,/অজ্ঞান চাঁকনৈয়া/এফলীয়া কৰি থৈ/মাৰি যাওঁ জীৱনৰে ডাঁৰ/জিলিকাব লুইতৰে পাৰ
Joi Aai Axom!


(The writer @RriturajSharma who describes himself as a ‘Passionately অসমীয়া’ hails from Guwahati. He is an IT Consultant by profession, is a music composer and special correspondent for Pratidin Times. The views expressed in this article are his own)

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