New Delhi: A day after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha, the intensifying protests in the Northeast, especially in Assam, seem to have forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi into crisis management mode. Modi tweeted in English and Assamese Thursday morning that his government is committed to safeguarding the “political, linguistic, cultural and land rights of the Assamese people”.
The Central Government and I are totally committed to constitutionally safeguard the political, linguistic, cultural and land rights of the Assamese people as per the spirit of Clause 6.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 12, 2019
He also posted: “I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of #CAB. I want to assure them- no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow.”
I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of #CAB.
I want to assure them- no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 12, 2019
Two hours later, at an election rally in Jharkhand, the PM again assured the people of the Northeast, and accused the Congress of misleading them by saying Bengali will replace Assamese and they will become a minority.
Modi’s reassurances come after protests in Assam plunged the region into chaos over the citizenship bill, with several incidents of violence being reported from different parts. Guwahati has been placed under curfew, while the Army has been called in and has begun conducted flag marches.
BJP, RSS to launch campaigns
The BJP is planning to launch a political campaign once the current session of Parliament ends on Friday. The campaign aims to “dispel misunderstandings” about the CAB, and lay the ground for a nationwide National Register of Citizens. At Wednesday’s BJP parliamentary party meeting, PM Modi set the tone for the campaign, saying those opposing the bill are speaking in the language of Pakistan.
In the debate on the CAB in both Houses of Parliament, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the Congress was not concerned about religious minorities in India, but only about Muslims and spreading fear among Muslims. A party functionary told ThePrint that the campaign will reiterate this, and “express the government’s concern not just about our own people but persecuted Hindus too”.
A BJP general secretary added that it was untrue that the CAB is anti-minority. “We will reach out to the masses through TV ads, social media, rallies and seminars to communicate that this bill has nothing to do with Indian minorities,” he said.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, too, is set to launch a nationwide campaign to emphasise that the beneficiaries of this bill are persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
An RSS functionary said more than 60 lakh people will get citizenship in Bengal after this bill. “This is a huge victory for those people, and this needs to be communicated at the grass-root level,” the functionary said.
‘We have mishandled the situation’
A BJP MP, who did not wish to be identified, said the party had “mishandled the situation without assessing that people will turn against us” in Assam.
“This could damage us, so we have been told to present the correct fact — that illegal Bengali Hindus are not going to change the demography of the Assamese people,” the MP said.
For this, the BJP high command has now instructed its Assam unit and the Sarbananda Sonowal government to make a full-fledged campaign to negate the notion that the bill will jeopardise indigenous people’s rights.
Booth-level party workers have been asked to assure people that the government has constituted a committee to protect there rights, while the state unit has been told to spread the word that only 5 lakh Bengali-speaking people will get citizenship under the new law.
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