'Want fast-track peace process in Assam'

Updated: 14 December, 2019 07:39 IST | | Mumbai

As Assam becomes an inferno thanks to the protests over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), Mumbai's Assam Association president speaks on winning trust and a quick settlement.

Assamese actress Barsha Rani Bishaya and Zerifa Wahid take part in a mass hunger strike organised by the AASU against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati on Friday. Pic/PTI
Assamese actress Barsha Rani Bishaya and Zerifa Wahid take part in a mass hunger strike organised by the AASU against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati on Friday. Pic/PTI

Dr Jyotirmoy DasEven as you read this, news reports assail us about the turmoil in Assam, over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Without going into details about what the CAB is, first up, the Association in Mumbai, which is a socio-cultural organisation, dedicated to keeping the Assamese culture alive in the city, is concerned and tense about ongoing events. We have already appealed for peace in our digital magazine called 'Enajor', which literally means something very lovely or a binding force. Of course, Internet is not available in Assam currently, so they cannot access the magazine. We have relayed the message in the hope that Internet will be up soon.

I think these problems which are spiralling to alarming proportions have started because the Bill has not been very well understood by the Assamese people. When you do not understand a concept well or in its entirety, you are apt to be misled at best and manipulated at worst. The Bill may very well be good. Yet, if that is so, the present Ministers of Assam should have used different mediums to explain what the CAB means, and what are its ramifications to people from the grassroots level to upwards. Today, there are manifold mediums from on ground posters, meetings, to the digital space. By doing that, you effectively close any scope for misunderstanding and people are less gullible or suspicious. If the Bill is bad, then, certain modifications can be made to make it acceptable. The Assamese are a sentimental people and the issue should have been dealt with delicately.

In some ways I understand where the Assamese are coming from. Some people are fearful that the present government is saying this Bill should correct the wrongs of the past, so we are giving citizenship to a certain group of people. Then, if another dispensation comes in after five or 10 years, they may say we want to right the wrongs of the past government and give citizenship to another group of people. Local Assamese are fearful of infiltration, they feel some part of Assam has already slipped away from them and they will lose other parts too. There has been a lot of immigration from Bangladesh and rightly or wrongly, they do feel threatened and think that Assam's culture will be diluted. All this is straining the fabric within the state itself.

The government will have to find a way very quickly to establish some trust with the people. Right now, it is imperative that an environment conducive to peace is created and this is even more important on the debates about the CAB.

I have been keeping in touch with my relatives in Dibrugarh and asking them if they have enough food at the home for the next few days. The Assamese here have similar concerns. On Wednesday, a group of Assamese artistes in Mumbai, many of them from the music industry and Padma Bhushan awardee, film director Jahnu Barua submitted a memorandum for withdrawal of the Bill immediately, to the resident commissioner of Assam Bhavan in Mumbai, D Sharma. It can be re-looked at or tweaked to be made acceptable.

Having said that, one thing that the community here, by and large is taking positives from is the messages from the current government assuaging the Assamese, asking them not to feel threatened by the Bill. I believe in PM Narendra Modi and the current government; they will be able to untie the knotty problem and not placate, which is temporary, but win the faith of the people for lasting peace. As people from the State, and in fact, citizens of India, the Association and I must play our part, small though it may be, to fast track a peace process in Assam.

As told to Hemal Ashar

Dr Jyotirmoy Das is the president, Assam Association of Mumbai. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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First Published: 14 December, 2019 07:35 IST

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