125 families of martyrs in Assam return awards to protest CAB

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Family members of Assam Agitation martyrs in Guwahati return the mementos gifted to them by the state government. (Image Credit: UB Photos)

The protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2016 in the North Eastern Region is getting louder. Now, the families of 125 out of 855 martyrs on January 30, 2019 returned the memento conferred unto their sons, husbands, and daughters for their sacrifice during Assam Agitation. The procession that was taken out is said to be the first phase of the move reminiscent of the ‘award wapsi’ campaign where Sahitya Academy awardees, film makers and eminent scientists and artists returned their awards to the government in protest against what they termed as “growing intolerance in the country” under the Narendra Damodardas Modi government in 2015.

In Assam an organisation of the Assam Agitation martyrs has decided to return the honour to protest against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill under the banner of Sadou Asom Jatiya Swahid Parial Samannayrakhi Parishad (SAJSPSP), which took a resolution at an executive meeting to return the honour to protest the government’s move to pass the Bill in Parliament.

Earlier on December 10, 2016, the incumbent BJP led government in Assam honoured each of the martyrs’ family with Rs 5 Lakhs at Khanapara playground in Guwahati. The protesters have set the deadline of January 31, 2019 to return all the 855 awards.

It may be noted that the protest may be most aggressive in the state of Assam, as the citizens are being reminded about the Assam Movement – a six-year agitation by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord by the Rajiv Gandhi government and AASU on August 15, 1985.

Now the SAJSPSP also thanked all the organisations and individuals for their strong protests against the Bill. The Prime Minister had promised to deport all illegal foreigners, but instead is now making them Indian citizens, the resolution said and warned the government not to play politics over the martyrs.

The North Eastern Region, by proximity is close to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, and has the longest stretch of unmanned international borders. Although globalization has brought the world together and particularly the North East is regarded as the hub for bringing Asian countries closer, the phobia of influx and illegal migrants is the root cause for opposing the Bill.

The ambitious venture of the Central government to promote trade and commerce needs a better understanding, before creation of joint mechanisms between India and its neighbours to tackle the international cross border crimes, particularly in this region. The central government should first take the states situated along the International borders in particular and the nation in general into confidence in dealing with law and order issues as these are state subjects. The Anti Narcotics Cells also need to be sensitized and better equipped to tackle international drug trafficking and infiltration.

Infiltration is now a global problem and may be attributed to globalization. Countries talking about Free Trade have put all countries in a dilemma of whether to tighten the border security or to open them up for trade and commerce to develop the border population, which can prevent infiltration and illegal smuggling, while Smart Borders Management focuses on preventing drug trafficking and other illegal smuggling.

The international agreement is a policy and the respective state governments need to execute it at the grassroots level; otherwise all such joint mechanisms will not be effective. For a start, the State Governments should deal with drug trafficking and infiltration using an iron fist. It is possible once the general masses are confident that there is no nexus between the traffickers and the politician or the defence personnel.

Secondly, the traditional institutions, religious leaders and educational institutions should be vigilant about any individual either involved in drugs trafficking or addicts and should take immediate action as remaining sympathetically silent because of acquaintances being involved in such crimes will only encourage them to become hardcore addicts.

According to many of the traffickers, the illegal business of drugs or flesh trade, arms and cattle smuggling will flourish as long as there are demands by the general public. There are numerous NGOs involved in sensitizing on the drug menace and its consequences and it is high time to introspect if this is effective and if not, different strategies need to be worked out.

At the ground level, the Inter-state council – a recommendatory body to investigate and discuss subjects of common interest between the centre and states or among the states for better coordination of policy and action, should also thrash out differences relating to inter- state border disputes, which is the main stumbling block for coordination.

But of course the Citizenship Amendment Bill only assures granting of citizenship with the concern of the respective state government, while the Law and Order being the state subject, the respective state government will have to tackle such issues of influx from the neighbouring countries which has gelled the citizens of the region demanding the revoking of the Bill passed in Lok Sabha.