Following calls by militant groups to “boycott” Independence Day celebrations, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Monday said that Assam was an “integral and inalienable” part of India.
“The exuberant celebrations and display of love for the tiranga [tricolour] by the public during the last three days is a lesson for those who dream of an ‘independent’ Assam,” said Sarma, during his speech on the country’s 76th Independence Day in Guwahati. “Assam will never leave India.”
Last week, the banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) called for a “total shutdown” and “boycott” of Independence Day celebrations in Assam. Along with the ULFA-I, the Yung Aung faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Khaplang (NSCN-K-YA), had asked five Northeastern states, including Assam, not to participate in the celebrations.
ULFA’s call for boycott was in stark contrast to last year’s message, when the outfit had broken away from tradition and said it would not call for any armed protest on August 15. Since its inception in 1979, the ULFA has made a customary call for a bandh on Republic Day (January 26) and Independence Day (August 15) every year — in line with its demand of creating a “sovereign Assam”.
Since he became the chief minister in May 2021, Sarma has been appealing to the ULFA-I chief, Paresh Baruah, to shun violence and “return to the mainstream”. On Monday, Sarma added: “Sovereignty is non-negotiable and we will never budge from this position. I urge the secessionist groups to come to the table and work with us for the development of Assam.”
In his speech, Sarma also said that the government had decided to withdraw one lakh minor cases, including those related to social media posts, to lessen the “burden on the lower judiciary”. “There are 4.5 lakh cases pending in the judiciary, including serious ones such as rape and murder. For many, hearings are yet to happen. This has slowed down the smooth dispensation of justice,” he said, adding that cases registered before midnight of August 14, 2021, would be withdrawn.
The chief minister spoke of the success of his government’s schemes like Mission Basundhara (updating the land records), Mission Bhumiputra (digitisation of caste certificates), Mission Sadbhavana (disposal of pending files in the state secretariat) and Orunudoi (monthly assistance to women members of marginalised families), and said they were “transforming” Assam into one of the most progressive states in the country. He added that Rs 10,000 crore had been earmarked to improve infrastructure in all government-run High and higher secondary schools in the state.