A group of 20 Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs on Thursday met Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal seeking creation of an atmosphere where the legislators can face the people for removing misconceptions about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The legislators said they had to virtually go underground to avoid public ire and said steps must be taken to assure the people that their culture, language and existence were not under threat from any piece of legislation.
“I have had to go into hiding [after the violent anti-CAA protests that left six people dead] and was forced to leave hometown Dibrugarh. We cannot let such a situation continue. Reassure the people and resume our developmental activities,” BJP legislator Prasanta Phukan said.
The BJP’s Sootea MLA Padma Hazarika said the government must hasten the process of implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, 1985, that guarantees constitutional safeguards for the indigenous Assamese people.
“We have to honour the people’s sentiments. But at the same time, certain forces are misleading people. The government should undertake outreach programmes to remove fears about the CAA’s perceived threat to the Assamese identity,” he said.
Tea industry hit
Mr. Hazarika said some protesters had been spreading misinformation in the tea estates of eastern Assam, saying the CAA would make the Adivasis or “tea tribes” lose their plantation jobs to “truckloads of Bangladeshi labourers.”
Tea industry captains have corroborated the “fear psychosis” that has seen plantation workers stay away from work across many estates in eastern Assam. Groups such as All Adivasi Students’ Association and Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangh have been organising protests against CAA.
“There has hardly been any plucking in most tea estates for more than a week now. Production has fallen and a few million kilograms of leaves have been wasted. It will be difficult for the estates to overcome the massive loss,” a plantation association member said on condition of anonymity.
Apart from some 800 major tea estates, some 70,000 small tea growers have been affected.
The All Assam Students’ Union, spearheading the anti-CAA movement, organised a rural awareness campaign on Thursday while popular artists assembled in Guwahati’s Chandmari Field to voice their protests.
“Some major sports events such as Khelo India [from January 10] and Indian Super League are being organised. Our people should fill up the galleries with anti-CAA slogans to give the message to the people who matter,” AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya said.
Meanwhile, the Gauhati High Court directed the Assam government to lift the ban on mobile Internet and data services from 5 p.m. on Thursday. Services were not restored till the time of reporting.