GUWAHATI, Dec 20 - The ongoing agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, or the CAA has taken the shape of a national movement and the protests will continue until the government scraps the controversial new Act, principal opposition Congress said today.
Addressing a press conference here, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Assam and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, in a veiled reference to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, also alleged that a “game of one-upmanship” is going on, as one wants to prove to be more ‘loyal’ than the other to the BJP’s central leadership.
“The whole country has now stood up against the draconian law. The entire country is now standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Assam... Assam was the first State to express its reservation and anguish against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or the CAB as it violated provisions of the Assam Accord and was also contrary to the cultural uniqueness of the State... It was the students and civil society of Assam who first raised their voice against the CAB. Now it has become the democratic cry of the entire country against the CAA,” said Rawat. “A game of one-upmanship is going on between the Chief Minister and the ‘Super’ Chief Minister to impress their bosses in Delhi. A competition is on to prove who is more faithful and loyal to Delhi. And the common people are being victimised in the process,” said Rawat.
He said that the government and the ruling party are trying to discredit the anti-CAA movement and bring divisions among the agitators, not only in Assam but across the country.
“There is an attempt to derail the people’s movement. There is an attempt to divide the movement by means of spreading false narratives. But, the government’s nefarious designs and conspiracies have got exposed. The movement of the masses will continue till the Act is withdrawn. For the government, the only solution left is to withdraw the CAA,” said Rawat.
He said that the protests being witnessed across the country in recent days have been totally spontaneous and that BJP was able to get the CAA through Parliament by a “manufactured majority” by resorting to defections and coercion.
“University students, professors, academicians, cine actors, artistes, IT professionals... all segments of society have hit the streets because people know that peace, solidarity and social harmony of India is under threat. It (CAA) is against the Indian ethos and against our principle of secularism and equality of all religions,” said the senior Congress leader.
“It is a spontaneous movement of the masses. They are now saying that Congress incited violence. Where is the proof that Congress is leading or instigating? What proof does the government have? Congress will not accept false allegations,” he said.
He asserted that the CAA will not be implemented in the states where the Congress is now in power. “The State governments run by the Congress will not implement it, whether in Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh or Puducherry. In Assam also, if we come to power in the 2021 Assembly elections, we will put the Act in the place where it deserves to be. And if we come to power at the Centre in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, then we will scrap the CAA,” Rawat said.
He said that the government and its agencies are trying to infiltrate the anti-CAA movement to “create mayhem”. “The nefarious design of the State government here has been laid bare. Just like in Delhi, here also they have tried to infiltrate the agitation of the students... The conspiracy of the government against the people will not be tolerated... They want to demonise the opposition,” Rawat said.
The party also demanded immediate release of Akhil Gogoi and others arrested by the police.
Speaking on the occasion, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi claimed that Sonowal has lost the trust of the masses.
“Today the Chief Minister held a press conference during which he appealed to the people to have faith in him. From being a ‘jatiya nayak’ Sonowal has now reached a stage where he has to ask the people to have faith in him... The Chief Minister himself is responsible for his present condition,” said Gogoi.
He accused senior BJP leaders of “adding fuel to the fire” and ignoring the wishes of the common masses.
Gogoi added that the ongoing agitation will get over only when the CAA is scrapped.
Asked about the government’s promise to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, Gogoi expressed scepticism about the entire issue.
“Why form a committee? Why not just directly implement it? The government is just adopting delaying tactics,” he said.
Regarding the government’s offer of talks with the agitators, Gogoi said, “The Bill has already been passed. What is now left to discuss?”
Gogoi said that while fighting the IM(DT) Act case in the Supreme Court, Sonowal had filed an affidavit mentioning that there are 50-60 lakh foreigners in Assam.
“Now he is saying that the number of foreigners is negligible. So, it means his affidavit was false. The Central government, in its affidavit in the same case, has cited various reasons for infiltrations from Bangladesh. But, religious persecution has not been mentioned as one of the reasons,” Gogoi said.
He added that there is also no mention of the term “religious persecution” in the CAA.
“Why is the term religious persecution not mentioned? The Bangladesh government has asked for a list of its citizens in India and said it is ready to take such people back. The Central government should provide such a list... CAA has been imposed by the BJP for political reasons and for votes... It has been brought to divert attention of the masses from the government’s failure on the economic front,” Gogoi opined.