Updated: February 8, 2020 5:56:19 am
ASSURING THE people of Assam that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act will not lead to outsiders settling in the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday that “certain forces” were spreading misinformation on the CAA and that the country will “neither tolerate nor forgive” them.
The Prime Minister was in Assam for the first time after the violent protests in December against the new citizenship law that left six people dead.
Amidst loud cheers, and fluttering Tricolours and All Bodo Students Union flags, Modi asked the gathering in Kokrajhar in Bodoland Territorial Region — he called it the largest rally in independent India — to celebrate the government’s accord with Bodo groups signed last month. Following the signing, over 1,600 members of the Bodo militant outfit NDFB laid down their weapons.
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“I have come to assure the people of Assam that the country will neither tolerate nor forgive anti-Assam and anti-India mentality and its supporters. These are the same forces that are spreading rumours in Assam and Northeast that through CAA people from outside will come to Assam and they will be settled here. I want to assure that nothing of that sort will happen,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister said that a mentality has emerged to block roads, put barricades and create problems. He said the politics that encourages such mentality does “not know India nor do they understand Assam”. “Assam and India are connected by heart and soul,” Modi said.
He said that just like Bodo groups have come together to join the mainstream, others’ “misconceptions too will get cleared soon”.
Modi began his speech with lines in Bodo and Assamese, and by invoking Vaishnavite spiritual reformer Srimanta Sankardev, Mahatma Gandhi and Bhupen Hazarika. He ended the nearly hour-long speech with chants of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and ‘Mahatma Gandhi Amar Rahe’.
“Friends, have trust in me, I am yours. Your sadness and pain, your hopes and aspirations, your children’s bright future… I will not be behind in doing whatever I can for that,” Modi said.
To celebrate his visit, Kokrajhar town was lit up with around 70,000 earthen lamps last evening, prompting the Prime Minister to wonder aloud whether so many diyas are lit even for Diwali.
“Sometimes people talk of hitting me with a danda (stick). But the Modi who has got the protection of such a large number of mothers and sisters, no matter how many dandas fall on him, nothing will happen,” Modi said in an indirect reference to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent comment.
Modi pitched the recent Bodo accord as a way to “permanent peace” and welcomed all those who gave up arms and returned to the mainstream. He said it marked a new beginning for Assam and the Northeast in the 21st century.
The Prime Minister described how the accord and the Rs 1,500-crore development package will benefit people, and said: “Every demand related to this movement [for Bodoland] has ended.”
Pointing out that the earlier accords of 1993 and 2003 were not able to establish complete peace, he said: “Today is a new dawn, an occasion for welcoming a new inspiration. Today is the day to take a pledge to strengthen the streams of development and faith. Now, the darkness of violence should not be allowed to return to this world.”
Before urging the audience to give a standing ovation for “peace”, Modi said: “In this agreement, everyone has won. And the most important fact is peace has won and humanity has won.”
The Prime Minister’s visit comes weeks after two of his previous expected visits were cancelled following the protests. The Indo-Japan summit, which was scheduled to be held in Guwahati in December with Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was cancelled. Modi did not visit Guwahati for the Khelo India Games — there was no official confirmation of the visit at the time, though.
On Friday, Modi said the government is trying to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord as soon as possible. “I assure the people of Assam, that after the Clause 6 committee submits it report, the Centre will speed up actions. We are not the sort of people who delay and vacillate,” he said.
With anti-CAA protesters claiming that the Act threatens the interests of the indigenous people of Assam, the government has pitched Clause 6 as an antidote.
The clause states: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
Modi said that previously the attitude towards the Northeast was of neglect and a disinterest towards solving problems, whether it was protests or violence. Such an attitude had distanced a section of society of Northeast so much that they lost faith in the Constitution and democracy, he said.
“After we came, most parts of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh are free from AFSPA,” Modi said, referring to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Prime Minister spoke about various developmental projects, financial schemes and projects to boost infrastructure and connectivity that his government has initiated in Assam and the Northeast.
Speaking in the evening, Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma once again urged the ULFA-I to join peace talks.
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