N-E communalism rises, hits Indian nationalism

The ASGP and AASU gave the BJP space and became its allies.

The blood-curdling incident of the lining up of five Bengali Hindus and shooting them dead, execution style, on the Brahmputra waterfront in Assam’s Tinsukia district, by suspected militants of the United Liberation Front of Asom on Thursday has brought shame to the country and appears to be a consequence of the divisive communal politics played by the ruling establishment.

The BJP began to play overt communal politics in order to demonstrate that Muslim “infiltrators” had entered Assam from the erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) due to the slackness of the former ruling party, the Congress, to safeguard so-called Hindu interests.

This had been the theme song of incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election campaign in 2014, when he was seeking to win the last Lok Sabha election. Due to the zeal to expose “infiltrators” — the loaded expression deployed in the Assembly election campaign in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh by BJP president Amit Shah — the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens was begun.

The inhuman side of this action by a coercive state has become all too evident, forcing people to take their lives and obliging the Supreme Court on Thursday to relax the absurd criteria of proof being demanded so far and extending the deadline of furnishing proof of Indian citizenship to December 15 from November 25.

It is not unlikely that very few, if any, of the 40 lakh people trapped in the web of finding genuine proof of citizenship to satisfy NRC requirements will in the end be deemed to be “foreigners”. In the main, we are talking about poor people, working hard to make ends meet. We should, for perspective, keep in mind that not many of us will be able to bring forth official papers to establish our being Indian.

To further burnish its pro-Hindu (and impliedly anti-Muslim) credentials in order to satisfy the RSS-BJP majoritarian constituency, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was introduced in July 2016, superseding the Citizenship Act of 1955. This was a ruse to permit Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to gain citizenship of India as “refugees”, while Muslims were “infiltrators” to be hounded out. This has angered the Hindu residents of Assam who, under the leadership of groups like AGSP and AASU, had conducted the “anti-foreigner” agitation in the early 1980s, which turned out to be a movement against Bengali-speakers in general.

The ASGP and AASU gave the BJP space and became its allies. Now they, along with Ulfa, a terrorist group rooted in Assamese sub-nationalism, seem to be turning on the BJP. Linguistic nationalism or chauvinism, which earlier acted in tandem with religious chauvinism, is now seeking to assert itself in the Northeast. Indian nationalism has become the first casualty.

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