Citizenship Bill: Protest by regional parties

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It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.

  • Elizabeth Kenny

 Pluralistic character of Northeast, with diverse socio-cultural communities, is often not taken into consideration when the region is categorised as one homogenous administrative, political and geographical entity. There are differences on the basis of race, religion, language, political opinions and geographical features- each state having its own characteristics unique to itself. Long years of expectation for autonomy and independent existence have had led to the formation of regional political parties in the region. It is believed that since the national parties have failed to represent the particular need and aspiration of the people of the region, regional political parties have been formed. Formation of All Party Hill Leaders Conference, which was the outcome of ethnic consideration against the imposition of Assamese language as the official state language, is a pointer towards the trends of ethnicisation of politics in Northeast. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is a direct product of Assam movement against settlement of foreigners and exploitation of Assam’s natural resources by the ‘outsiders’.  But the main reason behind the failure was inter-party conflict, lack of organisational strength and trust deficiency upon the leadership. Because of factionalism in AGP, the NAGP was formed in 1991. To counter the activities of AGP, United Minorities Front (UMF) was formed. All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had promised a lot when it was born in 2005 but years after it has failed to live up to the expectations of the people. The state saw an interesting transformation of Hagrama Daimary’s Bodo People’s Front (BPF) from armed struggle to parliamentary democracy.

The regional political parties have become irrelevant in Assam due to misrule of AGP-led five party alliance government from 1996-2001. In 2001 assembly elections, the people of the state voted for the Congress party. In 2006, Congress led by then chief minister Tarun Gogoi came to the power once again due to his stand against Maulana Badaruddin Ajmal led AIUDF. Actually, Tarun Gogoi-led Congress had played the role of a regional party in the state. However, during the regime of BJP-led government in Assam, the people of the region are being humiliated by the BJP-led NDA in the Centre. The Congress party which has to play a major role in supporting the sentiment of the state’s people, has not shown any significant role when the government passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Lok Sabha on January 8 last. It had staged a walk out (walk over?) from the Lok Sabha, which gave the opportunities to the BJP for passage of the controversial bill. It is also not clear what would be the stand of the party in Rajya Sabha when the bill will be introduced.

In such a situation and circumstances, a regional party is the need of the hour which has to fight for the cause of the indigenous people of the region. Altogether 10 political parties of the Northeastern region, including BJP allies and JD (U), unanimously resolved to fight against passage of the controversial Bill in the Upper House. Since there have been huge protests against the Bill across NE states the leaders of these parties got a chance to make their presence felt in political spectrum and naturally agreed to come united against the proposed legislation. There is no doubt that it is a welcome move and the leaders must ensure that it reaches its logical conclusion.


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