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Demand in Bengal, ruckus in Assam … What will BJP do on CAA before elections?

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As the assembly elections in West Bengal are coming to a close, the demand of the Citizenship Amendment Act i.e. CAA is increasing in the state. The BJP general secretary himself has announced that CAA will be implemented in the state from January i.e. next month. This is a very profitable deal for the BJP in terms of vote bank in Bengal. However, the path of the party is not so easy on this front. Actually, there are assembly elections in West Bengal as well as Assam. 

In Bengal, where the BJP is on a mission to remove the Mamta government from power and form a government in the state for the first time, in Assam, its government has been running for five years, which it has to exercise to maintain. There was a huge uproar in Assam regarding CAA, if again the discussion on CAA has progressed, the situation may be unfavorable for BJP in the state. This is the reason why BJP seems to be stuck between Bengal and Assam regarding CAA. 

On 11 December last year, the Modi government at the Center passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill from Parliament. This law was also made with the signature of the President. But even after one year, the government has not been able to make rules to implement this law. Now that elections in Bengal are on the head, there is a demand for CAA here. Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya has said many times in his rallies that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act i.e. CAA will come into force in West Bengal. After this, the process of granting citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan will begin.  

BJP MP from Bengal Shantanu Thakur said that Home Minister Amit Shah coming to Bengal next week should give assurance about this. Actually Shantanu Thakur comes from Matua community. This community has a sizeable population in Bengal. These are Hindu refugees, who have come from neighboring country Bangladesh during the country’s partition and in subsequent decades. There is a long-standing demand for permanent citizenship in the Matua community. The way for them to get citizenship under the CAA will be cleared. BJP is seeing its political advantage in this. That is why she is talking of implementing CAA in the state before the elections. 

In Bengal, the CAA in which the BJP is seeing its political advantage, in Assam it remains the same. The BJP is the only government in Assam. The people of Assam took to the road on completion of one year of the CAA Act. Several organizations, including the North Eastern Student Organization, All Assam Students Union (AASU), celebrated the anniversary of the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act from Parliament as Black Day. The North Eastern Student Organization consists of eight student organizations from seven states in the Northeast. In fact, last year in Assam, the list of National Citizenship Register or NRC was published, in which more than 19 lakh people were excluded, these are people who could not prove their citizenship. There is also a significant number of Hindu refugees in it. If CAA is implemented, then all of them will get citizenship. This is the reason why there is strong opposition to CAA in the state.  

When this law was enacted last year, five students from the Northeast were killed during the protests that started against it. The agitation had grown so much that the BJP government of Assam was disturbed. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, he had to postpone his Assam tour at that time. The Modi government has repeatedly said that the CAA is a law not to take citizenship of anyone but to give citizenship to minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. But the people of Assam are against giving citizenship to outsiders of any community.  

Political parties, members of parliament, religious groups, civil society groups, student organizations, political organizations, retired bureaucrats, lawyers and activists all reached the top court against the CAA. It was argued in the petitions in Assam and Tripura that the extension of citizenship for persons entering India by 2014 under the CAA violates the provisions of the Assam Accord. The CAA will force the northeastern states to accept ‘Bangladeshi migrants’.  In Assam, BJP’s ally Assam Gana Parishad is also opposed to the implementation of CAA in Assam. A petition has been filed against the CAA in the Assam Gana Parishad court. Kumar Deepak Das, a former Rajya Sabha MP and leader of the Assam Gana Parishad, says, “CAA cannot be imposed on the people of Assam. He says that the CAA will be a major issue in the Assam Assembly elections to be held in 2021. Every person in Assam is united on this. In such a situation, it does not seem that the BJP will implement the CAA process in any way till the elections. Samuel Javra, president of the North Eastern Student Organization, said that there is a lot of apprehension in Assam about the effect of the citizenship law. We are still waiting for how long the Supreme Court will hear and give a decision in this case. This is a question of Assam’s identity. 

Senior Assam journalist Dilip Kumar Sharma says that after Guwahati last year, eight districts of Upper Assam had seen the highest protest against citizenship law. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also hails from Upper Assam, where the BJP had won the most seats in the last assembly elections. Due to the protest, such an atmosphere arose in the area that the minister and the MLA were reluctant to go public. When the CAA process begins, the tone of protest will start again in Assam, which the BJP will never want.  

However, Hemant Biswa Sarma, a BJP leader and a minister in the Assam government, has said in the India Today program that, ‘CAA is no longer an issue in Assam and it will not have any impact in elections. Of course, some political parties or leaders may mention it in their speeches, but the people of Assam will vote on the issue of development. It is clear that the CAA issue for the BJP has become a sore throat in the context of Bengal and Assam. It cannot even deny it in Bengal and implementing it in Assam will also be risky. 

Supreme Court lawyer MR Shamshad says that the government can technically adopt the process of implementing the phase wise law to grant citizenship. He will not have technical problems in this. However, before implementing the CAA, the government will have to notify its rules, which have not been done so far. Along with notifying the rules, this data will also have to be collected in which state there are so many people who want citizenship or who have applied under this law. If the intention is to implement the CAA from January in Bengal, then work on it will have to start immediately, only then the law can be implemented before the elections. 

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In this regard, BJP national spokesperson Syed Zafar Islam says that our party and government are fully committed to implement CAA. The parliamentary committee is preparing the process of CAA in this direction, after which the work of granting citizenship will begin. After the process, it will be decided whether the government will implement it simultaneously in the country or in a phased manner, but one thing is sure that the Modi government will continue to give the right to live with dignity in India to the minorities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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