How many more CAAs in coming decades?

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By – Talmizur Rahman

With the President assenting to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill (CAB), the Constitution (Amendment) Act (CAA) has come to stay. For the genuine political observer it has never been a surprise. Significantly, the day the people of Assam overwhelmingly voted for the BJP in the last Lok Sabha election, the die was cast.

It may be noted that in the matter of bringing in the Bill in the Parliament, the BJP never cheated anyone. Even before the Election Commission officially announced the holding of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP president (now also Union Home Minister) Amit Shah announced in north Assam that if voted to power the party would re-introduce the CAB in the Parliament. Beginning with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the same announcement was made by a host of BJP heavyweights in the election campaign meetings in Assam, while the same was made into a promise in the 2019 election manifesto of the saffron party. On that count that BJP only abided by its commitment, with the final result being the Bill becoming an Act. Interestingly, there was not even a whisper of protest from any corner of Assam during the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

It may be highly pertinent at this stage to recall that while the CAB-2016 had lapsed in 2018 on account of the ruling dispensation’s lack of the requisite strength in the Rajya Sabha, the months that preceded this stage of the earlier Bill in 2018 witnessed massive protest against it all over the North-east; virtually entire Assam turned into a boiling cauldron of protest. However, the leaders and the organisations they led and are still leading protest movements against CAB (now CAA) went into hibernation immediately after the Election Commission officially announced the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. For months together the anti-CAB leaders and organisations vanished into oblivion and there was none to ask the people to oppose CAB-2016. It is ordinary common sense that if any protest against CAB-2016 was to be made then, it should have been done immediately after the BJP’s loud announcement on a new CAB made prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Had the anti-CAB leaders, in particular two of them, who had earlier led the anti-CAB movement played a similar role in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the election results in all probability might have been drastically different. Alas that was not to be! Having disappeared from public domain throughout the election period and beyond involving several months, these leaders slowly began to creep back to limelight by addressing the press now and again on lighter issues. Interestingly, while the new version of the CAB was placed in the Parliament with absolute certainty of its safe passage in terms of numbers in the ongoing Winter Session, these leaders who have mastered the art of vanishing when most desired to be in the limelight, once again sprang into action with loud anti-CAB protests. While the general public invariably follow the leader(s), to the conscious observer it was crystal clear that a losing battle against the new CAB was being waged.

Meanwhile the hard truth that the BJP’s poll manifesto promises to re-introduces a new CAB was like a referendum before the people of Assam at the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. And the people voted overwhelmingly for the BJP in 9 out in a total of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam; percent wise in 64.3 percent of the constituencies the people voted for the BJP when politically speaking every such vote was a stamp in favour of the promised upcoming CAB.  The vast majority of people of Assam cannot deny the bitter reality that in reality they voted overwhelmingly in favour of the CAB in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

An analysis of the last Lok Sabha poll results makes it clear as daylight that those sections of the people of the state who boast to be ‘more indigenous’ than others stood solidly by the BJP in the 2019 polls. The ruling party made a clean sweep in upper Assam and south Assam; in middle Assam the results proved to be roughly 60% in favour of the BJP and 40% in favour of the opposition. It was only in lower and west Assam that the saffron juggernaut ran into some rough and bumpy electoral terrain winning 1 of the 4 seats in the region.

Significantly, over the last couple of months or so, several columns by this writer have appeared in the media stating that considering the numerical strength of the BJP dispensation along with allies and supporting parties in the Lower and upper House of the Parliament, the new Bill becoming an Act was a reality and that the people of the state have almost forfeited the right to oppose the same. Today, after the CAA has come to stay, a conscious observer may only assert that the ruling saffron brigade never imposed the new CAB (now CAA) and had left it to the wisdom of the people to convey their opinion through their votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The results were not only a delight to the saffronists but also led to eruption of jubilation and celebration in the camps of those claiming to be ‘more indigenous’ and pristine pure.

While in the fitness of things, the right to oppose the new CAB (now CAA) was almost lost by the vast majority of the people of Assam the day they voted for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the violence that broke out after the Bill was tabled in the Parliament virtually ran out of control, compelling the police and other security forces to turn trigger-happy and take to unbridled firing while killing many in those regions of the state that proved to be mighty strongholds of the BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls. Interestingly the areas where the BJP fared badly and are labelled by many to be inhabited by ‘less indigenous’ people and those categorised as Bangladeshis on religious basis, relatively speaking witnessed lesser violence till date. The question arises as to who might possibly have resorted to violence – those who had overwhelmingly voted for the BJP and jubilated over the party’s victory or those who had supported the opposition parties in the last Lok Sabha polls? One aspect is, however, clear as daylight; the violence followed by firing was a lot more in the constituencies where the saffron brigade came out victorious in the last polls.

Be that as it may. The orgy of violence followed by death of several protesters and injury sustained by many more in police firing did not suddenly fall from the sky. One may feel that there could very well be organised force(s) and mastermind(s) who took advantage of the spontaneous and democratic outcry and anger of the general protesters against the CAB (now CAA).

Whatever be the opinion one may hold now, the massive violence that rocked the state is a clear pointer to the fact that the state police, the intelligence wing and the state Home department headed by the Chief Minister himself proved to have miserably failed in the matter of preventing the orgy of violence and carnage. The turn of events was so abrupt and fast with all hell breaking loose, that some analysts in private question if the massive failure on the law & order front for two to three days enjoyed some calculated blessings of the powers that be in Dispur with a view to throwing all blames on some selected people on the basis of caste, creed religion and language et al. Such suspicions are not totally unfounded when the Prime Minister of the country can equate Assamese protesters against the Act in London with ‘Pakistanis’. When the ruling dispensation could be so vindictive in its approach towards genuine Assamese protesters, one may very well gauge as to how doctrinated and tailored approach various government agencies may adopt in their investigation into the massive violence that broke out in the state. Can the Dispur Czars convince the people as to why one may not suspect factors like caste, creed, religion or language to play major role in all such investigations?

So far as Assam and the new law (CAA) is concerned, it is all about making Hindu Bangladeshis Indian citizens, a major step in the advancement of RSS-BJP ideology of Hindutva in the roadmap towards realisation of a Hindu Rashtra. The Act pertains to granting Indian citizenship to hoards of Hindu Bangladeshis (numbers not disclosed by the Government – hence it could be even in millions) who had entered India upto December 31, 2014 and are presently settled at least temporarily under government protection in Assam. The fact remains that they need to be provided land, bread and shelter or ‘roti, kapda aur makaan’. No matter how much the State BJP heavyweights go hammer and tongs on the issue, the writing is loud and clear on the wall that land will not come from Gujarat or UP but will have to be arranged from within the territorial limits of Assam. Can the BJP government dare to bring out a white (or even a white-wash) paper on the number of indigenous people without an inch of land in the state? Again demography will suffer an irreparable impact as the Hindu Bangladeshis have their own language and culture. Still worse, the indigenous people face the imminent threat of being reduced to a minority even in their home state. Further with the ‘Chalo Paltai’ movement silently at work, the 2021 census itself may project the indigenous population of Assam as minority lot.

However, the threat to the Assamese and other indigenous population of the state does not end here. The new Act would facilitate the Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants who entered the state till December 31, 2014 in becoming citizens. What about those who had immigrated thereafter till date? What about those who would continue to migrate into the state from now onwards in the decades to come? While the Centre banks on the real/imaginary boggy of persecution of minorities in Bangladesh without a whisper of protest before Bangladesh or raising the same in international bodies like the UNO, on may be on the right track in assuming that the present CAA could be the first of such Acts; possibly a chain of non-ending CAAs may come to stay in the decades to come.

Further, the way the BJP made a clean breast of the CAB (now CAA) prior to the 2019 polls, the same process may be adopted in respect of all such Bills in future to be on the safe side. However, despite prior announcement of such Bill(s) in poll manifesto, it may not be surprising if the saffron brigade succeeds on every occasion in ‘managing’ the indigenous population to vote in its favour. In any case, even now with just one CAA firmly in place, emergence of a Tripura ominously looms large over Assam. At this juncture one may feel that perhaps Assamese culture, language and the huge edifice of the greater Assamese society anchored on tolerance, brotherhood and harmony among all communities built up by Mahapurush Sri Sri Sankardeva might possibly have landed on the wrong track and may speedily fade into oblivion in the decades to come. Was this the ‘parivartan’ that the ruling dispensation has been boasting of since 2014?

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