GUWAHATI: Backing the Centre’s decision to protect Hindu immigrants through the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma asked critics of the CAA to view India as a civilisation that started 6,000 years ago.
“Ours is a Hindu civilisation. India didn’t start in 1947 but 6,000 years ago. People who believe India started in 1947 find a difference between Assamese and Hinduism/Indians. Those who believe India started 6,000 years ago don't see that difference. That is the fundamental point of view. We want to fight the upcoming (Assembly) elections on that agenda,” Sarma said at the release of his fourth book titled “Eta Xopunor Pom Khedi” (Chasing a Dream).
Calling himself a Hindu first, he said, “If you believe in the Sanatani dharma and are a Hindu, you will accommodate everyone who is not a threat. I am a Hindu and my duty is to strike a balance between the interests of Hinduism and the interests of Assam. When you will see the final outcome of the CAA or its rules, you will see a fine balance between Hindu interests and the interests of Assam.”
Sarma, the BJP’s face in the Northeast, said he takes pride in the fact that he is a Hindu who is following in the footsteps of medieval saint-reformer Srimanta Sankardeva.
“There won't be an iota of doubt in our election manifesto this time around. We stand for staunch nationalism and positive regionalism. When we said ‘jati’, an Assamese thought the community referred to was Assamese but I meant Hindu,” the Minister said.
In its 2016 election manifesto, the BJP had pledged to protect “jati” (community), “mati” (land) and “bheti” (foundation).
Sarma said the Assamese think of the Assamese language, not of the Bodo, Rabha, Mishing, Dimasa, Karbi languages. He said the BJP has gone to an extent that not only Assamese, the languages of the state’s tribals must also be revived as they, as well as Assam, are a part of that great Indian tradition.
“(Playwright, songwriter, poet and writer) Jyotiprasad Agarwala and Bishnu Rabha (known for his contributions in the fields of music, dance, painting and literature) never saw a difference between Bharat and Assam. In every song of Rabha, you will get a reference of Lord Krishna…
“Call me a chauvinist or communal, I don't view any Indian living in India or abroad as a stranger. I see those as Hindus who see Bharat as their motherland. He could be a Muslim, Hindu or Christian. If there is a conflict between his religious scripture and India, he will vouch for India, not his religious views. This is my definition of Hinduism,” Sarma said.
Various organisations in Assam are angry over the Centre’s move to 'dump' Hindu Bangladeshis in the state through the CAA. They want the government to respect the Assam Accord, signed between the then Rajiv Gandhi government and the All Assam Students’ Union in 1985 at the end of the six-year-long bloody Assam Agitation.
As per the accord, the immigrants, irrespective of faith, who entered Assam after March 24 (midnight), 1971 have to detected and deported. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) of 1951 was updated in the state based on this cut-off date.