A marathon discussion in both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday, focussing on incidents of ethnic violence in Assam, witnessed heated exchanges between the Opposition BJP and the ruling party, with the former accusing the Centre of failure to control the violence and doing little to implement the 1985 Rajiv Gandhi accord on deportation of migrant workers from Assam.
Several members in the Rajya Sabha suggested that a fact-finding all-party Parliamentary delegation visit the State.
In the Lok Sabha, where the BJP-sponsored adjournment motion was later negated by a voice vote, senior CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia described the violence as a “monumental failure of the Centre and the State government,” as the authorities failed to take prompt action despite early warnings.
He said people who had been living in Assam since 1947-51 could not be treated as refugees. Mr. Acharia also demanded a special package for the rehabilitation of the affected persons.
Dara Singh Chauhan of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said the violence could have been averted if the State government had taken timely action.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad alleged that as Home Minister during the BJP-led NDA rule at the Centre, Mr. Advani had helped fan hatred against certain communities, and the BJP was now indulging in a campaign to mislead tribals in Assam. His remarks evoked sharp reaction from BJP and Shiv Sena members.
Bijoya Chakravarty of the BJP criticised the delay in sending the Army to Kokrajhar and other areas of the State hit by violence.
Ranee Narah of the Congress said the main Opposition party was blowing up the incident by giving a communal colour to it. Amid cheers by party colleagues, she questioned Mr. Advani’s record as Home Minister.
Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) blamed the State government for failing to take prompt and timely action to contain the violence.
S. Bwiswamuthiary (Bodoland People’s Front) objected to the term ethnic violence, and contended that the unrest in the region was due to “blatant aggression by illegal hostile Bangladeshi immigrants.”
Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress accused Mr. Advani of constantly harping on the problem of migrant workers and not referring to the people who had been uprooted from their home and hearth.
“The tone and tenor of Mr. Advani’s speech will lead to further provocation. At this moment, Assam needs peace, tranquillity, and development. Our country’s strength is unity in diversity, and at no cost should peace and harmony should be allowed to be disturbed,” Mr. Roy said.
Initiating the discussion in the Rajya Sabha, BJP member Balbir Punj accused the Congress of contributing to the problem for vote bank politics. “You created a situation in which the population ratio changed, and a sense of insecurity prevailed among the native Assamese, as people were called from outside for vote bank politics.”
Responding sharply to the charge, Bhubaneswar Kalita (Congress) said he was “pained” to hear what Mr. Punj had to say. “What message do you want to send? To divide the people, or to eschew violence?”
He said the 1985 Rajiv Gandhi accord with Assam student leaders did talk of detection, deletion, and deportation of migrant workers, as well as complete fencing of borders with Bangladesh. But from 1985 to 1991, the student leaders who formed the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) led the government in Assam, and did nothing.
To this, AGP member Birendra Prasad Baishya said the detection of migrant workers, as also the complete fencing with Bangladesh, was to be done by the Union Home Ministry.
Appealing to the government to refrain from shifting blame, he said: “The fight is between indigenous people and foreigners, not between Hindus and Muslims. The main problem is that the State is being used as a transit for terrorist groups such as the HuJI [Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami] and other Jehadi jihadi groups who take shelter in Bangladesh. That is why the open border with our neighbour is a big problem.”
The CPI’s D. Raja, who visited the State after violence broke out, blamed the State government for the escalation of violence. Had the local administration acted firmly on July 6, when clashes broke out, the situation would have been under control, he said.