On March 6, an organization named Nikhil Bharat Bangali Udbastu Samannay Samitee (NIBBUSS), organised a day long rally and demonstration in Silpathar town in Assam, demanding that the names of Hindu Bengalis be removed from the list of D-voters (doubtful voters). It is reported that the demonstrators attacked and vandalized the office of the AASU (All Assam Students’ Union) and injured several AASU activists.
The issue of who is a voter and who is not is a very sensitive issue in Assam, given the large number of migrants from Bangladesh who have settled in Assam over the years. The Indian state has used this issue to repeatedly inflame communal passions in Assam, and organize blood baths in which thousands of innocent people have been massacred, such as the Nellie massacre. According to the Assam accord signed in 1985 between the AASU and then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, 1971 was decided as the cutoff date for deciding who is a foreigner and who is not. While revising the voters list in Assam in 1997, the Election Commission had added the letter "D", to indicate “doubtful voters”, against names of people whose citizenship was considered “questionable”.
The Congress and the BJP have always pursued the course of dividing the Assamese people on the basis of Assamese and Bengali speaking, on the basis of ethnicity, and on the basis of religion. The Indian state has also been dividing the people on the basis of those from Bangladesh who made Assam their home before 1971 and those who came after that.
The attempt by the Central Government of passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which gives citizenship rights to Bangladeshis of the Hindu faith, provided they have lived in India for five years is a diabolical move to divide migrants from Bangladesh on the basis of their religious faith. In the particular condition of Assam, it is aimed not only at inflaming passions amongst the Assamese people against the refugees, it is at same time aimed at dividing the migrants from Bangladesh on the basis of religion.
Silapathar town, 445 km from Guwahati, in Dhemaji district of Assam, has about 20-30% Bengali speaking population. Following the incidents of March 6, it was put under curfew for nearly a week. The people of Silapather, across all communities and walks of life, as well as local people’s organisations have come together and unanimously condemned these efforts of the state and its agencies to foment communal division between Assamese and Bengalis, and between Hindus and Muslims.
All Assam Tribal Sangha and Assam state unit of the SFI, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Asam Sahitya Sabha (organisations of writers and artists), 6 students organisations of different communities, Tai Ahom Yuba Parishad, Muslim Students' Union of Assam, the Left Democratic Manch-- a forum of 11 parties -- and many others have strongly condemned it. They have demanded immediate action against the culprits. Many organisations of Bengalis have also condemned it. They have claimed that the attack was ‘pre-planned’ and organized to foment communal tensions and divide Bengali and Assamese people living peacefully in the town.
The Indian state has consistently tried to divide the people living in Assam on the grounds of whether they were ‘original residents’ or ‘foreigners’, i.e. migrants from other states, notably Bengal. It has also systematically tried to turn the Assamese people against people who have come from Bangladesh and settled there, Assamese against Bengalis, Hindus against Muslims, and so on. The creation by the EC of the “D” category, the denial of citizenship and constant harassment and persecution of many sections of the people there, the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which aims to give citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, -- all these are aimed at creating insecurity, suspicion and distrust among people and creating the grounds for organizing large-scale communal violence, massacre and destruction.
CGPI strongly condemns these attempts of the state to disrupt the unity of our people.