Double standards of BJP leaders on CAA likely to impact its fortunes in Assam
The BJP’s manifesto in Assam is silent on implementing CAA, while its manifesto for West Bengal promises that a decision on implementing CAA will be taken the moment it comes to power in the state
Prime Minister Narendra Modi might have thought his Bangladesh visit at the time of elections in West Bengal would woo the Matua community in the state. But he is mistaken. Not only the Muslims but even Hindus have come to distrust his observation as well as the rhetoric of his second in command Amit Shah about weeding out the ‘illegal infiltrators’, ‘the termites’, and ‘help the persecuted Hindus’.
Modi performed puja at Kali Mandir of Matua people but at no stage did he call upon the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to take care of the Hindus. Only a day after his visit, a Hindu temple was vandalised by the anti-socials. On the day Modi was in Dacca meeting Hasina and Matua leaders, a most volatile protest march was organised against the visit of Modi in which at least six persons were killed in police firing.
For last three years, BJP had made ‘illegal infiltration’ a big issue in Assam, and the Home Minister Amit Shah built his entire campaign by attacking the Muslim leaders, especially the All India United Democratic Front leader, Badruddin Ajmal, for allegedly supporting ‘infiltrators’. Modi’s visit to Matua mandir and his meeting with the Matua patriarchs could not make much impact on the Matua people of West Bengal, who matter in at least 35 Assembly constituencies in the state.
Amidst Shah’s ferocious attacks against Ajmal and the ‘illegal infiltrators’, Badruddin during Modi’s visit to Bangladesh tweeted: “I would like to request him to discuss with Sheikh Hasina the issues of deportation of illegal immigrants and the Indo-Bangla border sealing to stop further infiltration.” This put the two leaders on the defensive. It is worth taking note that ever since this tweet by Ajmal, the two leaders were tactically refraining from raking this issue publically.
With elections already held in a few Matua dominated constituencies, BJP leaders are now not in the mood to raise this issue during the rounds of polling in which other Matua dominated constituencies feature prominently. It is worth mentioning that neither has the BJP made any such ‘demand’ from the Prime Minister, nor has Modi or Shah raised the issue of infiltration after Modi’s return from Bangladesh.
The ambivalent stand of Amit Shah on CAA and NRC has further shaken the confidence of the Matua people. The BJP’s dilemma regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in West Bengal and Assam became obvious on March 25 when the party released its manifesto for the Assam elections.
Releasing the election manifesto for Assam, party’s president JP Nadda said CAA cannot be changed through a state legislation and did not commit to its implementation. Significantly, just two days ahead of this, Amit Shah, while releasing the manifesto for West Bengal, had said that the state Cabinet would take a decision on implementing CAA if the BJP comes to power in the state. This was a ploy adopted by him to fool the Matua community.
Though the party’s Lok Sabha member from Matua community Santanu Thakur still continues to try and convince his community people of the ‘concern’ of Modi and Shah, other leaders are sceptical. They argue that the two leaders should have been candid in their observation and stance.
The BJP’s manifesto in Assam is silent on implementing CAA, which allows citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The BJP during the 2016 elections had promised implementation of CAA, which in the state would have meant automatic citizenship to minorities from Bangladesh who came after the 1971 war of liberation without going through the tedious NRC process.
The Assam Accord provides citizenship to migrants after March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date. The difference in the time frame has caused serious consternation in the Matua community of West Bengal.
Though Shah claims that BJP would implement CAA in Bengal, he has been maintaining a passive silence on implementing NRC in West Bengal, fearing that doing so could impact Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, including Dalit Hindu communities, the Rajbanshis of north Bengal and Matuas of south Bengal.
There is no denying the fact that in his over enthusiasm to reach out to the Matuas, Amit Shah has turned both Bangladesh government as well as Matuas suspect the real intentions of the Modi government. People of Assam nurse the fear that CAA would dilute the 1985 Assam Accord and lead to a fresh influx of Bangladeshi Hindus.
In an attempt to assuage the feelings of the Hindus of Assam, Nadda said if the party is elected in Assam, it would make efforts to ‘correct the NRC’ to protect genuine citizens. Ironically, he could not explain why so far 19 lakh Hindus have been facing the threat of deportation and are yet to be provided with citizenship.
Academics and intellectuals have started seeking to know “while BJP is talking only about a corrected NRC, why its 10 commitments contained in its manifesto do not mention CAA, which the party has committed to implement in West Bengal.” Instead the party has been focusing on the so-called clash of civilisations and promise to protect Assam’s ‘sanskriti’.
The people would also like to know the implication of “correcting” the NRC. This word has been coined by the BJP to assuage the AASU leaders who hold that BJP doesn’t want to talk about CAA as it would adversely affect their electoral fortune in Assam.
The BJP leadership has been tacitly resorting to this to convey, “under NRC the people of Assam were expecting that at least 30-40 lakh more ‘sandehjukto lok’ (suspicious people) would be evicted”.
Views are personal