At Assam event, PM Modi seeks to assuage concerns of state’s CAA protesters
Politics

At Assam event, PM Modi seeks to assuage concerns of state’s CAA protesters

Addressing a large crowd to celebrate the signing of the Bodo Accord last month, Modi accused some sections of fear-mongering.

On his first visit to Assam since Parliament in December passed the amended citizenship law, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday tried to assuage the concerns of people in Assam protesting against the contentious law.

Addressing a large crowd to celebrate the signing of the Bodo Accord last month, Modi accused some sections of fear-mongering. “People are spreading misinformation that CAA will lead to foreigners entering India illegally. I want to assure the people of Assam that nothing like that will happen,” said PM Modi.

CAA proposes to fast-track citizenship to minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis, from the Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The law has triggered widespread protests by opposition parties and other organisations in Assam amid concerns that it could encourage a fresh wave of infiltration by illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and threaten the livelihoods of indigenous people. Five people have been killed in police shooting during the protests, which are still underway peacefully.

In Assam and the rest of northeast, the demand is for the scraping the legislation because of a perception it will dilute the 1985 Assam Accord, under which the government agreed to identify and deport any and all refugees and migrants who entered the northeastern state after March 25 1971.The CAA extends the deadline until December 31, 2014.

Clause 6 of Assam Accord, signed after a six-year agitation against illegal immigrants, promises constitutional safeguards to Assamese people through reservations in elected seats, jobs and so on. A high-level committee on the issue will submit recommendations on implementing the clause this month to the government.

“Our effort is now to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord as soon as possible. I assure the people of Assam that as soon as the high-level committee’s recommendations on the issue come, the Centre will implement it. We don’t believe in delays and obstructions,” Modi said.

Modi described the Bodo Accord as a historic pact that will usher peace and development to Assam, where the movement for a separate Bodoland for the state’s largest tribe started over four decades ago. The Bodo Accord was signed on January 27 by the Centre with all four factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and United Bodo Peoples’ Organisation (UBPO).

“This is a day to celebrate your efforts, which has led to permanent peace in this area. It is a day to take an oath to strengthen faith in development and discard the darkness of violence,” Modi said to cheers from the crowd.

“The accord is significant as it coincides with celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. I welcome all NDFB cadres to the national mainstream. The accord has put a full stop to all Bodo demands and now development is our primary and final goal,” the PM said.

Modi stressed that the accord will benefit not just the Bodos, but other communities as well. The PM listed important points of the accord including a special financial package of Rs 1,500 crore, which will benefit Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa and Udalguri, and the redrawing of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).

“All demands related to the Bodo issues have been met. Peace was not established after 1993 and 2003 agreements. The Centre, Assam and Bodo agitation groups have signed a historic accord, no demand is left. Now, development is our first and last priority,” he said.

With the signing of the accord, the United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I), which is seeking a sovereign Assam, remains the only major banned militant outfit in the state. Last week, 1,615 cadres of all the factions of NDFB laid down arms in front of chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal at an event in Guwahati.

The PM said the Central government was providing solutions to difficult problems, which had been ignored in the past because of “social and political” reasons. “For decades, nobody was touching issues related to the north-east. We have engaged with stakeholders and have found solution for long-lasting peace,” he said.

This was a reference to the Centre’s decision to offer e special package to and settle Bru-Reang refugees in Tripura. The PM also mentioned that the National Liberation Front of Tripura and government had signed an agreement in August 2018 for lasting peace in the state. “Now, they have shunned arms and have joined the mainstream,” he said.

Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Mohilliary and signatories to the Bodo Accord were present at the event.

In his address, Sonowal urged all NDFB cadres to contribute towards building a developed Assam. Sarma reiterated his appeal to the ULFA-I and all other active militant outfits in the northeast to shun violence and join peace talks.

Some groups opposed the Bodo accord because they weren’t consulted about it and planned to sponsor a shutdown protest on Friday, but called off the move. The All Assam Students Union (AASU), which is spearheading the anti-CAA protests in the state, also decided not to oppose Modi’s trip.