GUWAHATI: The Northeast, particularly Assam, erupted in joys after the Centre had failed to table the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (CAB) in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
People in various parts of Assam took to the streets, danced and sang Bihu and patriotic songs and burst firecrackers to celebrate the day. They all agreed that it was due to mass protests that BJP-led Central government did not dare table the bill.
“Credit goes to the people of Assam and the Northeast. The Northeast saved democracy in the country,” said Akhil Gogoi, an RTI activist and leader of peasants’ body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samitee (KMSS).
“They (BJP) were not adhering to India’s secular fabrics. We thank the Chief Ministers of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh for their bold decision to oppose the bill. We thank all groups and organisations which cooperated with us during the protests,” Gogoi added. The KMSS had spearheaded the anti-CAB protests in Assam.
Opposition Congress in the state celebrated the “victory” of people by distributing sweets among its party workers.
“We had been continuously protesting against the bill. Even today, if the bill had been tabled in the Rajya Sabha, we would have registered our protests,” state Congress chief and Rajya Sabha member Ripun Bora said.
Congress stalwart and three-time former CM Tarun Gogoi alleged Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal and Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had wanted to destroy the state by endorsing the bill. They failed as the people of the Northeast showed their guts, Gogoi said.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which had severed its ties with the BJP and pulled out its support to the Sonowal government after the bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha recently, expressed gratitude to all those who had put up a fight to thwart the bill’s passage in Parliament.
“I feel they (BJP) will not try to impose the bill on us later. If they do that, the Northeast will burn more,” AGP president Atul Bora warned. AGP leader Manoj Saikia said as the bill had been virtually shelved, the party would discuss on forging alliance with the BJP again.
Two BJP CMs must be feeling greatly relieved. One of them is Manipur CM N Biren Singh whose state was witnessing widespread protests against the bill.
“I sincerely appreciate and congratulate the people of Manipur and NE in general for winning on CAB. The efforts of students, meira paibis (women’s groups), NGOs and different political parties of the state were remarkable. Because of your genuine demands, Central government has reviewed CAB,” Singh tweeted.
He expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for not tabling the bill and opting for “consensus-driven approach”.
Amidst the euphoria, Himanta Biswa Sarma said it would be a defeat for Assam if the bill does not get passed in the future.
“We will try to table it in the Rajya Sabha as and when we have the numbers there. I believe it will be Assam’s defeat if the bill does not get passed at all. By 2021, Bangladeshi Muslims will be in a majority in 17 of Assam’s 33 districts. We brought the bill to thwart it. The bill is our commitment and it will remain so when we fight the Lok Sabha elections,” he asserted.
Assam BJP MLA Shiladitya Deb, who had courted controversies with his alleged bizarre comments in favour of the bill, said it was not a victory of any organisation or political party that the bill could not be tabled.
“We didn’t table it in the Rajya Sabha as we did not have the numbers to get it passed. We tabled and passed it in the Lok Sabha because we had the numbers there,” he said.
Among the CMs in the Northeast, Meghalaya's conrad Sangma was vehemently opposed the bill. He had threatened that his National People's Party would sever its ties with the BJP if the bill is passed.
On Wednesday, he said it was a great and emotional moment for the people of the Northeast.
"Today, the sentiments of the people, particularly of the Northeast, have prevailed. I thank all NGOs, student bodies, civil societies, media houses etc which played a critical role in ensuring that the voices of people reach different leaderships. I also thank all political parties which stood with us in opposing the bill. We all were concerned that this bill must not go through," he told reporters.