GUWAHATI: Protests erupted across Assam on Wednesday against the BJP 'Vision Document' for Delhi Assembly polls in which it described people from the northeastern states as "immigrants", with the ruling Congress and the opposition Asom Gana Parishad saying the statement had hurt the sentiments of the people.
Even as the BJP termed it as a "clerical error", the protests continued to rock various places of Assam.
The Congress took out a protest rally with banners and placards to the Kamrup (Metro) district Deputy Commissioner's office in Guwahati raising slogans "we from the North East region are Indians and not foreigners".
Referring to Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal's statement that the word "immigrants" was a "clerical error" and that it had been corrected, Congress state President Anjan Dutta said, "How can it be a clerical error. BJP has so many top leaders. They could not check the document before releasing it. BJP has been exposed".
Sonowal, who hails from Assam and had worked to get the controversial Illegal Migrants (determination by Tribunals) Act scrapped by the Supreme Court, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting that the "immigrants" word in the document was a "clerical error and not intentional. It has been corrected".
The Krishak Mukti Sangram Parishad (KMSS) activists were seen lying down on the main road near Dighalipukhuri here to register their protest.
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi said the move exposed the BJP's "negative" attitude towards the people of the region.
Protesting NSUI activists stormed into the office of the BJP state headquarters office at Hengrabari area here and engaged in fisticuffs with the party workers, tore the saffron party's flags before security forces brought the situation under control.
Criticising the BJP for terming the NE people as "Immigrants", AGP President Atul Bora said, "It will further alienate the region. Our stand that the ruling party has the same perception about the Northeast as others in Delhi has been vindicated. The damage done is irreparable".
AAP Assam state leader Manorom Gogoi said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi had described the eight Northeastern states as "asta-lakshmi" (eight goddesses of wealth) during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and now his party calls us immigrants. This is serious".
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which had sponsored the historical six-year long Assam Agitation against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Assam, also protested against the BJP document.
"We have been fighting against the onslaught of immigrants for the last 35 years. Now the ruling BJP terms the people of the Northeast as 'immigrants'. This is insult to the Northeast. This cannot be tolerated", said AASU Advisor Dr Samujjal Bhattacharjya.
"The BJP must tender an unconditional apology and it should come from the top - from the prime minister’s level", demanded Bhattacharjya, who is also advisor of the apex North-East Students’ Organisation (NESO).
The influential Asom Jatiyabadi Yuva-Chatra Parishad's President Manoj Barua said, "We strongly condemn the BJP for making such an irresponsible statement. It has hurt us all and proved that the promise to bring about a law for protection of the people of the Northeast in other parts of the country was a false one".
The BJP had in his Vision Document released in Delhi yesterday had stated special cells would be set up in all police stations and special 24-hour helpline numbers to be set up for the protection of the NorthEastern "immigrants".