Opinion: The BJP’s Actions Could Spark A Civil War In Assam

A civil war is fought between the civil society, consisting of citizens, engaged in a warlike situation against the political powers around. Although, not exactly a civil war, but the current situation in India reminded me of the American Civil war. It has some similar tense conditions, although there was more, in terms of areas covered, the involvement of international boundaries and the North-Eastern part of the nation. More than a Civil War, I think it would be better to call this the Second Assam Andolon.

I am from Assam and, as an observer, I would like to describe the terror that is being felt in Assam and nearby regions for the past few days, before and after the Citizenship Amendment Bill was proposed in the parliament and became an Act.

Photo: Himanshu Saikia via Facebook.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, the current political party in power, both at the centre as well as the state, had mentioned in their manifesto that they would adopt the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Then, the BJP won the Lok Sabha elections and formed the government.

The on-going protests were launched after the formation of governments in some states, led by Student Unions in general. The North-Eastern region is mostly ruled by BJP and its coalition and so, they were supposed to propose and adopt the CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill). Many refugees, irrespective of their religion, since the days Indira Gandhi, were moving from neighbouring countries to India.

Assam has been made home by most of these refugees. Many political parties of India have been treating India as a so-called ‘Hindu Rastra,‘ although, secularism is ingrained in our Constitution.

Political parties have run their campaigns and gained support based on the sentiments of people. Some would support the ‘majority’ as their vote bank while some others would support the ‘minorities’ as vote banks. Politics has been a long-puzzling game.

Guwahati: Activists take out a torch light vigil in protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Guwahati, Tuesday, Jan 8, 2019. (PTI Photo)

In Assam, the students’ unions have been politically active, and in opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The CAA, that was proposed can be summarised into the following points:

  • The CAA will provide citizenship to every Indian, irrespective of their religion, if they have lived more than 6 years; which was 11 years by the Rajeev Gandhi committee.
  • The CAA will be for the Hindu, Sikhs, Christians, and people of other religions, that have been staying as refugees, except for Muslims in India.

These are the two important points that have been changed with the CAA being passed in the parliament. Last time, when it was passed in Lok Sabha, it was not passed in Rajya Sabha but this is the time, the majority won over, even in the Rajya Sabha, on December 10, 2019.

The Students Union, as well as many citizens in Assam, have been involved protests for some of the following reasons:

  • The allowance of the CAA will allow an influx of people.
  • The CAA will provide homes for the immigrants, respective to those religions.
  • The refugees may enter on the basis of religious identity and can change their identity to be recognized as Indians.
  • The reservations in the jobs and state might harm the existing population.
  • The CAA is unconstitutional.
  • The CAA welcomes immigrants to populate the North-Eastern Region and mix its culture.

These are some of the points that people in Assam are worried about, and have been protesting against. But, state elections approach in nearby Bengal, where the BJP seem to not be able to dethrone Mamata Banerjee. I feel that with the influx of Bengalis from the border, the chances of the BJP winning there might increase.

But, to maintain neutrality, the government has seemingly planned the NRC in Assam, which is itself a big conflict that might provide vote-share for the BJP. The party has always the best in dominating political diplomacy.

On December 10, 2019, as I stepped out, in Guwahati, to meet my friends, I felt a difference in the sentiments of the people. A state-wide bandh (strike) had been declared the previous day, and so things were becoming normal the next day. While returning by the bus, the road had been blocked on either side and so, I had to walk.

At some points, like near Political Towers, many people were protesting against the CAA with posters. Coming forward to Paltan Bazaar, the shop owners were standing outside their shops and stalls as at any time, they would have had to close if protesters would have reached them, although many of them are Assamese. They felt afraid, but also mocked protestors for wearing a Gamucha as a turban, as a symbol for showing their protest.

The protests in different parts of Assam happened in different forms, but were mostly in opposition to the CAA. Students have been more active and have been leading the second Assam Andolan. The Centre sent for the backup force of commandos and had special forces shifted from Kashmir to Assam to control the situation. Some students died while others sustained injuries, but, the protests continue, so does curfew.

The internet service had been disconnected since 11 December night and commando security is on. The bill has been passed by the government. One of the few media communication available, when the internet was inactive, was radio and television. One of the two may be correct in their position but, Assam can be said to be ‘Kashmirised’.

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