Wednesday, May 29, 2024

CM Himanta Biswa Sarma exudes confidence at bjp’s success


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Little outburst against caa notification in Assam on eve of Lok Sabha Polls

Assam Chief Minister Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma leads a charmed life, confounding his numerous opponents. The operationalisation of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has hardly raised a ripple in the state so far. Preliminary reports may not be conclusive, but latest Assam media accounts suggest that the number of people seeking confirmation of Indian citizenship has not reached even a double digit level !
Yet, the much dreaded spectre of lakhs of people (including suspected ‘foreigners’) lining up in long queues to register themselves under the new rules and become Indians finally, was precisely the biggest fear among non- BJP opposition parties/leaders. Most political parties as well as powerful Assam-based socio-cultural organisations had unitedly opposed the CAA.
They had subjected the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its state leaders to a scathing political campaign in recent times. Their main grouse: a dominant national party was about to endanger the future of Axomiya culture and traditions. Mr Sarma, who vigorously supported the CAA, naturally attracted much of the flak, which often got personal.
The general apprehension was that in the post CAA period, the floodgates would open for large numbers of Bengali-speaking Hindu residents in Assam to take advantage of the Centre’s move and secure their long waited civic rights. In the process, the majority of native Axomiya – speaking population would be threatened, leading to a possible crisis for the state’s distinct homegrown culture and ethnic character.
No wonder, in the election season, Mr Sarma has lost little time to go on the attack against the opposition. Mocking at the claims made by prominent opposition figures that ‘truckloads of applicants would turn up for days’ claiming the benefits of citizenship, Mr Sarma has challenged his tormentors to explain how they could be so wide off the mark , not to mention their apparent failure to assess prevailing ground situation/realities in Assam!
Unlike other states (barring West Bengal and Tripura) ethnicity, religion and language have always been politically important factors for Assam, an area that has seen much migration from neighbouring states/countries since the British rule. Over the decades the percentage of native Asomiya-speaking people has dwindled within the increasingly mixed local population — current figure — 32 million.
There have been sporadic incidents of mass violence involving old settled tribes, migrating Bengalis (including Hindus and Muslims) and Asomiyas. Still, over the past decades, it needs stressing that generally life in general has been orderly and peaceful in Assam, regardless of underlying ethnic tensions — surely a major achievement in the volatile NE region.
A major problem for Census operation enumerators as well as political parties/leaders is how to work out the exact number of non Asomiya speakers in the state. It is common knowledge that many Bengali speaking Muslims (Miyans) as well as some Hindus, declare themselves as Asomiya speaking citizens during the decadal of census operations. Once the CAA becomes fully operative, Asomiyas naturally fear that this may change for good.
However, Mr Sarma, who makes no secret of his preference for Bengali Hindus in contrast to his hardline approach to the ‘Miyan” population, has all along insisted in his present poll campaign that the former group need not be treated as aliens. Their figures too, are not much, most estimates putting the present number of Bengali Hindus at around 3 million or thereabout — hardly a challenge to other major ethnic groups/communities .
Even prior to the present campaign, Mr Sarma has regularly visited that the three Bengali-dominated Barak valley districts, addressing meetings in Bengali at times, unlike most other Asomiya leaders. The state BJP claims that there have been more investments/economic development in the Barak valley region in recent times.
Sarma’s critics however remain unimpressed. As a self-attested hard Hindutva follower, Sarma’s tactics divide the Bengali-speaking community in Assam sharply, with Muslims remaining sidelined. Further, recent delimitation proceedings carried out by the ruling BJP government effectively reduced the number of state Assembly/Parliament constituencies in Assam, while the numerical superiority of Asomiya and tribal communities was ensured.
Protests mainly from Bengali-dominated groups/parties in the Barak valley against the new delimitation alignments addressed to various authorities elicited little response. Mr Sarma on the contrary openly declared that it was the state government’s intention to preserve the essential ethnic and cultural character of Assam. Nevertheless, state BJP leaders expect strong support from the Barak valley districts now that the CAA has become operational. (IPA Service)


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