Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday termed the passage of the citizenship bill in the Lok Sabha a “black day” for Assam and the country, accusing the BJP government of polarising the country on the basis of religion. “By passing the bill, the BJP government has polarised citizens as Hindus and Muslims and accepted (Muhammad Ali) Jinnah’s politics of dividing the country,” Gogoi said. The senior Congress leader’s comments come days after state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had claimed that Assam would go the “Jinnah’s way” if the citizenship bill was not passed.
Gogoi pointed out to the Assam Accord, which mentions that those illegally entering the state after March 24, 1971, would be declared as foreigners. “Aliens are not to be identified on the basis of religion. Our country is a secular one, it is in our Constitution’s Preamble. “BJP MPs, MLAs took oath accordingly.
By passing the bill on religious grounds, they have insulted their oath. What is the difference between them and Jinnah who partitioned India on the basis of religion?” Gogoi asked. The three-time former chief minister alleged that the bill was a ‘jumla’ (rhetoric) through which the BJP was hoping to get the Bengali-speaking people’s vote. “The bill has endangered Assam’s culture, heritage (and) existence, for whose preservation Assam’s people have been agitating for long. The Assam Accord was signed at the end of the six-year-long Assam agitation (from 1979), 855 (people) became martyrs during the agitation and even (the) Congress people became victims”, he said. “Assam is burning.
The BJP wants to destroy Assam and push the future of the youth to darkness…. This will cause loss to both the Northeast and the country. If such unrest continue, Assam will always remain disturbed and troubled,” Gogoi said. The Congress leader criticised the Centre’s decision to appoint a high-level committee to go into the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord as “it is already stated there that constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”. The former chief minister accused Sarma of misleading the people.
“Sarma’s claim suggests that Assamese people are weak and, therefore, need Bangladeshis to come in and strengthen them”, he said. Hitting out at Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Gogoi said, “After he clapped when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at Silchar on Friday that the bill will be passed by the Parliament, I realised Sonowal is no longer the chief minister of Assam, but now a puppet CM of Modi.” “Sarbananda has brought ‘sarbanash’ (destruction) for Assam. The BJP has now become Bangladesh’s party,” he said.
Gogoi suggested closure of the offices of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) after the passage of the citizenship bill. “The NRC updation was undertaken as part of the Assam Accord. The NRC will now become a waste paper of no value.” Gogoi said the role of the All Assam Students Union was important as the Assam Accord was signed with them. “This agitation has to continue peacefully and ‘jail-bharo’ movement has to be undertaken to save Assam and its people. The central government is fascist… Narendra Modi, Sarbananda Sonowal and minister Chandra Mohan Patowary are dangerous and they will destroy Assam,” he added.