Left and Democratic Parties in Assam organised a Joint Convention on 18th January at Rabindra Bhawan, Guwahati against forcible eviction of people and issues with the process of registering Assam’s people under the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Left and Democratic Manch (LDM) comprising of eleven left and democratic parties – CPI(ML), CPI, CPI(M), RCPI, AIFB, JD(S), Liberal Democratic Party, AAP, NCP, Asom Samgrami Manch and RSP, has been jointly fighting against anti-people policies and steps of BJP Government in Assam. It has taken up a series of movements – against privatization of oil fields, against forcible and communally motivated eviction and against communally motivated proposals to amend the Citizenship Amendment Bill in a way which would undermine the Assam Accord.
The Sarbananda Sonowal led BJP Government in connivance with the Sangh Parivar in Assam is conducting an eviction drive on communal lines, spreading rumours that the evicted people are suspected Bangladeshis and therefore to be evicted immediately. People were evicted in different places like Kaziranga, Mayeng and Sipajhar and even in the state capital Guwahati. Most of these people are Muslims, and have already suffered displacement due to flood and erosion. The Government has not offered any compensation and rehabilitation t the evicted people.
The BJP government is trying to set up a ‘land bank’ and grab land to allot to the corporate houses and big business. In Chirang district of BTAD area 3800 bighas, 45 bighas of land in Mirza, nearing Guwahati, 250 bighas of land in Balipara of Sonitpur district have already been grabbed and allotted to the Patanjali corporation of Baba Ramdev and the process is on to further allot 2100 bighas of land on the Assam-Arunachal border. This has spelled eviction for many as well as environmental destruction.
A presidium comprising of representatives from all 11 parties – including Comrade Subhas Sen from CPI(ML) – conducted the convention. Assam State Secretary of the CPI(ML) Comrade Rubul Sarma addressed the Convention along with leaders of all other Left parties.
Eminent intellectual Dr. Hiren Gohain, former Principal of Cotton College Prof. Udyaditya Bharali, leftist writer Abani Barthakur, former principal of B Baruah College Dr. Dinesh Baishya also addressed the Convention, and expressed solidarity with the movements against the communally motivated evictions.
People evicted from Kaziranga and Sipajhar attended the convention and shared their experience. Kasem Ali from Kaziranga spoke about how eviction was accomplished by massive police force and police firing that killed two people on 29th September 2016. The Administration promised to ensure rehabilitation and compensation within 40 days, but till date, neither compensation nor rehabilitation has been done. Saddam Husain from Sipajhar, said that evicted people are living under tents by the riverside in these cold winter days, suffering diseases. One newborn baby girl died soon after her birth. Describing the eviction move, he said that the district administration issued eviction notices in the evening and started the devastating eviction the following morning. It was totally inhumane as they gave no any chance of any alternative arrangement.
The convention demanded an immediate stop to the eviction drive and resolved to build up a movement against the inhumane eviction of poor and landless people particularly those from the Muslim community. The convention vehemently condemned the allotment of thousands of bighas of land to the corporate houses and organizations like Patanjali.
The convention demanded immediate compensation and rehabilitation for the evicted people of Kaziranga, Sipajhar and Mayeng. The convention demanded an immediate survey of land and adoption of a land policy in the interests of the poor and landless people of the state. The Convention also demanded a White Paper on land occupied by political leaders, tea planters, bureaucrats, big businessmen, as a step towards distributing such land amongst landless poor people.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is in the process of being upgraded in keeping with the March 24, 1971 deadline fixed by the Assam Accord – those who cannot prove their presence in Assam prior to this deadline would be considered illegal immigrants and deported. But the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 drafted by the Modi Government proposes to give citizenship to non-Muslim migrants/refugees from neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The BJP Government of Assam seems to be delaying the upgrading of the NRC till the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 so that Hindu migrants from Bangladesh are included in the register.
The Left parties have made it clear that they are not opposed to giving citizenship to refugees – the issue is why India should discriminate between refugees on grounds of religion; why Indian citizenship should be offered on grounds of religion; and why Assam should bear a disproportionate share of responsibility for hosting refugees.
The Convention demanded that the Government waste no time in publishing the draft NRC before 31st March 2017, and opposed all sorts of political intervention in NRC process. The Convention strongly demanded immediate withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. After the Convention a protest procession was held in the Dighalipukhuri area.