THE BJP has celebrated its first-ever Government in Assam, as a platform to expand their influence in other NE states. At the BJP’s National Executive Meeting all BJP leaders wore the gamucha (traditional Assamese decorated towel) around their necks. At that meeting the BJP President Amit Shah said that the tactics applied in the Assam election will be implemented in the coming assembly election in UP also, and the Assam election result will have a national impact towards a Congress Mukt Bharat.
Within two months of the Sarbananda Sonowal Government assuming power in Assam, however, it has faced protests. In its assembly election campaign, the BJP had committed itself to fulfilling the ‘Assam Accord’ (which is a tri-partite agreement signed in 1985 between the Assam Government, Central Government and the leaders of Assam movement, where it was agreed to deport foreigners). But on coming to power, the Modi Government declared that Hindu Bengalis are not foreigners and are refugees and decided to settle them in Assam. This decision betrayed the essence of the Assam Accord and the BJP is trying to communalise the issue. All the regional forces including the BJP’s alliance partner AGP as well as Assam’s democratic forces have opposed this communally motivated decision. “Foreigners are foreigners”, and there should not be a division between Hindus and Muslims. Both Hindus and Muslims facing persecution in neighbouring countries can be refugees. If refugees are to be given a home, then why should only Assam bear the burden, since Assam has agreed to settle all the foreigners coming before 25th March 1971?
Several protests against the betrayal of the Assam Accord have taken place, led by organisations like AASU, YUVA CHATRO PARISHAD, and KMSS. Under pressure from this movement, and its reflection in Parliament, the NDA Government was forced to send the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, to a joint select committee of Parliament on 11 August 2016.
In the election campaign, BJP had promised to control price rise but the Government, in its cabinet meeting, decided to increase tax in petrol and diesel and increased VAT by (5-6) percent on 127 important goods. This decision was taken without discussing with the alliance partners, so the AGP leader and former Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta opposed the decision. All the Left parties protested and demanded to withdraw it.
The Modi Government, after Modi’s return from his last US visit, decided to push 100 percent FDI and privatisation of oil fields in India. On 27th June 2016 CPI(ML), AICCTU, and AIPF (Assam) organised a protest in Guwahati.
The privatisation of 67 oil fields in India including 12 fields in Assam was widely opposed by the all the regional and Left democratic forces in Assam. The North-Eastern Region Oil Workers Coordination Committee (NEROWCC) also organised protests and seminars at Oil India Limited (OIL) in Duliajan.
Around this main issue 11 Left and democratic parties formed Left and Democratic Manch (LDM) – the platform comprised CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), RCPI, Forward Bloc, AAP, Sangrami Manch (Assam), Liberal Democratic Party, NCP and Janata Dal. The LDM organised a protest demonstration on 9th July, 2016 at Guwahati. On 14th July, 2016 LDM submitted a memorandum to the Petroleum Ministry demanding to withdraw the decision to privatise 12 oil fields. On 15th July, 2016 LDM called for ‘Dispur March’ where hundreds of people were arrested and the police lathi charged the protesters. The arrested leaders of LDM and parties were detained in a temporary jail in Chandmari Playground. A protest meeting was held where it was decided to hold a Dharna on 16th July, 2016.
Again on 25th July, 2016 LDM organised a Dharna in front of the Assam Assembly. Yuva Chatro Parishad, KMSS, AASU and other ethnic students organisations also held protests and disrupted the functioning of Oil India Limited.
The LDM held District level conventions also. On 28th July a convention was held in Jorhat where all the leaders of LDM including Bibek Das, state secretary of CPI(ML) was present. On 9th August convention was held in Nagaon district where PBM Rubul Sarma with other state members of CPI(ML) were present. On 10th August a convention was held in Dibrugarh.
The movement has a strong presence in Upper Assam where it is led by Yuva Chatro Parishad, Tai Ahom Chatro Santha and AASU.
The central government decided to construct an AIIMS in Assam. The people of Assam want it located at Raha of Nagaon district, nd the expert committee also identified Raha as the most suitable place for it. During the election campaign BJP promised an AIIMS at Raha but after forming government they planned to divert it to Changsari (near Guwahati). This decision has been protested by the people of middle Assam who formed an ‘AIIMS Demand Committee’.
Under this banner the senior citizens of Nagaon began an indefinite hunger strike. Almost all parties and organisations including CPI(ML) supported the hunger strike. The Local BJP MP Rajen Gohain and MP from Tezpur R P Sarma supported the movement and participated in the hunger strike. They assured the ‘Demand Committee’ that within seven days they would discuss with the central government about bringing the AIIMS to Raha. The hunger strike was withdrawn following this assurance but the Sarbanada Sonowal government Health Minister declared again that the AIIMS will be constructed at Changsari, Guwahati. A‘Youth Manch Of Middle Assam AIIMS Demand Committee’ (YMMAADC) has been formed which organised several thousands of people and blocked the National Highway to press their demand on 15th July 2016.
Without provocation, the police lathi charged, tear gassed and fired upon the protestors and killed a young protester Mintu Deori and injured many. In this protest leaders and workers of AIPWA at Raha participated. The Government’s declaration of compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the victim’s family has not satisfied protesters.
At the first budget session in the Assembly, the new government again declared that AIIMS will be constructed at Changsari. More more than 32 organisations held a protest meeting and decided to call a Middle Assam Bandh on 12th August. The Bandh was total and successful.The BJP Government of Assam is being held accountable by Assam’s people from the very start, and is not finding it easy to address the growing protests.