New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi has hit out at Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, accusing him of being “beholden to his RSS masters”, while saying that the Sangh was trying to “manipulate Assam’s diversity and Assamese culture” with bills like the new cattle preservation one.
“These bills and their templates are coming from a central source. In essence, a central source, which is nothing else but the RSS headquarters in Nagpur,” Gogoi told ThePrint.
“I think my Assamese culture is far more superior to the RSS ideology, or my Assamese culture does not need lessons from the RSS about how to promote the welfare of cows. It is unfortunate that in the midst of Covid, in the midst of price rise, the chief minister is beholden to his RSS masters and is making a law that has nothing to do with Assam’s context and history.”
The Assam government’s Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, seeks to ban cattle slaughter and sale of beef in parts of the state where Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs are in a majority, or within a five-kilometre radius of a temple or satra. The proposed law has become a source of much controversy.
‘Timing’ of the bill
Gogoi, who is the Member of Parliament for Kaliabor, has also questioned the timing of the bill.
“Let us question the timing of the bill. Yesterday, the prime minister had a conference with all the chief ministers of the northeast regarding Covid. Clearly, Covid is the number one priority,” he said.
“There are close to seven districts under lockdown. The chief minister himself in his meeting yesterday with the prime minister asked for more vaccines. Now, in this context, where there are not enough vaccines and we are still under lockdown, the government brings up a bill which is to essentially regulate consumption, slaughter, and transport of cattle.
“This is nothing but an attempt to distract the people of Assam from the mismanagement of Covid and the economic distress they are facing right now,” he added.
Gogoi also pointed out that Assam has a similar law for the welfare of cattle.
“Assam already has a law, which is the 1950 Cattle Preservation Act. So when there’s already a law that regulates consumption, slaughter, and transport, why is the chief minister in such a hurry?” Gogoi asked.
Assam had 20,284 active Covid cases as of 13 July and a death toll of 4,888. The state has ensured 88 lakh vaccine shots but as of Tuesday, only 20 per cent of its population had received at least one jab, while 4 per cent have been fully vaccinated. This is less than the national average, which for at least one dose stands at 23 per cent of the population and for the fully vaccinated at 5.7 per cent.
The Assamese culture
With the hyphenation of the National Register of Citizens and the new citizenship law by the ruling BJP, Assam has been at the centre of socio-political upheaval.
The ethnic versus non-ethnic fault-lines in Assam have slowly blurred, giving way to a larger, newer identity that has helped the BJP, as the recent elections show.
Gogoi, though, alleges that the RSS is trying to impose its ideas on Assam, just as in the rest of the country.
“I think this bill is nothing but an attempt of the RSS to manipulate Assam’s diversity and culture into what it wants the state to look like or society to look like,” the Congress MP said. “And, as I said, Assamese culture, our history, our language is far more superior and far more ancient than the 1925-set up RSS.
“Whether it’s NRC or CAA, whether it is this bill, this is nothing but an attempt to make our people follow the RSS diktat. And I’m sorry, that’s not going to happen,” he added.
“That’s not democracy. That’s not India; India is far bigger than the RSS. And instead of trying to fix the heterogeneous character of India into the homogenous vision of RSS, I think the RSS should take a step back and should learn from the diversity of India.”
Similarities with UP
The Congress MP also said the cattle bill in Assam was similar to the law brought in by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
“I read the bill and it seems to be a carbon copy of an ordinance, which was introduced in Uttar Pradesh by Yogi Adityanath. This is a simple copy and paste job,” Gogoi said.
“This bill does not talk about Assamese culture with respect to cows at all. In Assam, I don’t know about other states, but we have an entire day in a year that is devoted to looking after the welfare of our cows.
“So, I don’t understand why Assam and the chief minister are trying to copy a bill from Uttar Pradesh? I would say it’s vice versa. Assamese culture is far more superior. And we should take our culture to other parts of India,” he added.
Gogoi also questioned the need and prudence of proposed population control policies — Uttar Pradesh has just brought in a draft bill and Assam has also been mulling over such a proposed law.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)