GUWAHATI: The fear over Centre’s move to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has made at least one youth in Assam to join insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I). Now, some 50 others, all of them Hindus, threatened to convert to Buddhism as a mark of protest if the bill is passed.
The youth, who hail from Numaligarh in Upper Assam’s Golaghat district and are members of various organisations, took a pledge on Friday that they will convert to Buddhism if the Centre passes the bill which seeks to legalise the stay of non-Muslim immigrants of Bangladesh besides Pakistan and Afghanistan in India.
“If the government threatens the existence of the Assamese people by passing the bill, we will be forced to convert to Buddhism. To us, the Assamese interests are far greater than our religion. We will not allow a community to be wiped off just because the government wants to protect one religion. Religion can’t be greater than a community. We are ready to give up Hinduism to safeguard Assam and the Assamese. There are thousands other with us ready to forgo Hinduism,” one of the youth told reporters after taking the pledge at a Buddhist temple in Karbi Anglong.
The group of the youth slammed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for its alleged attempt to impose the “Hindu Bangladeshis” on the Assamese.
“The RSS wants to dump the Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam to protect the Assamese. It should know that the Assamese had bravely fought the Mughals 17 times. We don’t need the immigrants for our protection,” another youth asserted.
There is a perception that the BJP-led Central government wants to legalise the Hindu immigrants’ stay in Assam to counter the rising population of the migrant Muslims who are in a majority in at least 11 of the state’s 34 districts.
The youth’s threat to convert to Buddhism came just days after a local leader of influential All Assam Students’ Union had joined the ULFA-I to protect his motherland from the immigrants.
The controversial citizenship bill is increasingly uniting the various Assamese organisations. With the Centre likely to pass the bill in the Winter Session of the Parliament, there is a growing belief among some that only the ULFA-I can protect Assam and its land, language and culture at this time of crisis.