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Ministers draw flak for communal remarks

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GUWAHATI, Jan 30 - Former Chief Minister and Congress MLA Tarun Gogoi today accused members of the ruling party, including senior ministers, of making provocative and communal statements with regard to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Taking part in the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the Governor�s Address at the Assembly, Gogoi singled out Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and said that certain statements made by the latter ill behove a minister.

Gogoi said that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal should �restrain� Sarma. �The Chief Minister should restrain Himanta Biswa Sarma. But I doubt if he will be able to do that. At times, we feel as if Sarma is the Chief Minister himself,� said Gogoi.

Neither the Chief Minister nor the Finance Minister was present in the House during Gogoi�s speech.

�If such statements are made, how can there be peace in the State? How many jobs were created in the State during the last two and a half years? How many infrastructure projects were taken up? This is all an attempt to divert attention of the people,� said the senior Congress leader.

Gogoi said the Governor�s address failed to portray the real picture of the State and there is no mention of the Bill in the address.

�How is developmental activity possible if the State witnesses only protests and black flag demonstrations? It is after a very long time that Assam has witnessed such massive protests. During my 15 years as the Chief Minister, I was shown black flags only once,� he said.

He added that the government and the ruling party are wrongly accusing the Congress of provoking the agitation against the Bill.

�Will AASU listen to the Congress party? And why is it that even the State government employees are protesting against the Bill? ... The Governor�s speech in 2017 had clearly mentioned that the Assam Accord will be implemented in letter and spirit. Why not this time?� said Gogoi.

The senior Congress legislator added that the ruling party is acting in a self-contradictory manner by, on one hand, saying that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will be implemented, while, at the same time, also trying to get the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed.

�Nothing was done in the last four-and-a-half years (of the NDA government). And now all of a sudden, just before the next elections, they are talking about Clause 6. Nothing will happen. If you (BJP) really implement Clause 6, I will felicitate you with gamocha,� said Gogoi.

He said the Bill is against the secular spirit of the Constitution. �That is why even parties within the NDA like JD(U) and Shiv Sena have come out against the Bill. The governments of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram have also opposed it,� he said.

He said the Bill is �all politics�. �If there is really persecution, give the persecuted refugee status. I am stating it openly. But during my time as Chief Minister I didn�t receive even a single application. I challenge the government to declare the data regarding the number of people who have sought shelter (in India) due to religious persecution. This is all politics� NRC process was started to make Assam free of foreigners. Now there is a serious attempt to bring foreigners into the country,� Gogoi said.

He added, �I have only talked about the 2016 voters� list with regard to inclusion of names in the NRC� It is so ironic that Hindu Bengalis who voted for the BJP have found their names out of the draft NRC in such big numbers and Amit Shah has termed those very people infiltrators.�

Taking part in the debate, AIUDF MLA Hafiz Bashir Ahmed Kasimi said peace and amity are a must if Assam is to march on the road of progress.

�However, the provocative comments by leaders of the ruling party point to a lack of commitment for maintaining peace and amity. What is happening now is that there is a deliberate attempt to target people belonging to a particular religious community. There are 1.07 crore Muslims in Assam. If anybody believes that the Muslim community will be cowed down by threats then such a belief is not practical,� he said.

Referring to certain comments made recently by some ministers and BJP leaders, Kasimi said such statements reflect a disturbing trend. The geographical boundary of Assam has undergone lot of changes during the last few centuries. The present-day districts of Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Karimganj were part of the Mughal Empire till 1765, while present-day Cachar and Hailakandi were once part of the kingdom of Tripura and later of the Kachari kingdom, he said.

�And now, some are asking why the numbers of people left out of the draft NRC in those districts are so few. But they fail to understand that Bengali-speaking people are indigenous in many parts of the present-day Assam. Till the time of annexation by the British, Barak Valley was not a part of Assam. We need to check and analyse the history. It is unfortunate that all Bengali Muslims are being termed as Bangladeshis,� said the AIUDF MLA.

Kasimi said that while ethnic conflicts have taken place in Assam, the State has no history of religious or communal riots.

Earlier, initiating the debate, BJP MLA Debananda Hazarika said Assam has witnessed all-round development during past two-and-a-half years of the Sonowal government. �Despite all misinformation campaign, BJP and its allies have managed to sweep the elections to various Autonomous Councils,� he said.

Hazarika said the work on the Bogibeel Bridge was completed during the time of the BJP government. �It took 21 years for the bridge to be completed. Nobody said anything all these years. But as soon as the bridge was completed, everybody was hell bent on taking credit. Some elements even tried their best to see that the work on the bridge is not finished. We completed it,� he asserted.

�It is strange that there is so much drama after the name of Dr Bhupen Hazarika was announced for the Bharat Ratna. A senior national level leader made very insulting comments� It is unfortunate that such things are happening. If it had not been for politics, then Dr Hazarika would have got the Bharat Ratna during his lifetime,� he said.

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Ministers draw flak for communal remarks

GUWAHATI, Jan 30 - Former Chief Minister and Congress MLA Tarun Gogoi today accused members of the ruling party, including senior ministers, of making provocative and communal statements with regard to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Taking part in the debate on the Motion of Thanks on the Governor�s Address at the Assembly, Gogoi singled out Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and said that certain statements made by the latter ill behove a minister.

Gogoi said that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal should �restrain� Sarma. �The Chief Minister should restrain Himanta Biswa Sarma. But I doubt if he will be able to do that. At times, we feel as if Sarma is the Chief Minister himself,� said Gogoi.

Neither the Chief Minister nor the Finance Minister was present in the House during Gogoi�s speech.

�If such statements are made, how can there be peace in the State? How many jobs were created in the State during the last two and a half years? How many infrastructure projects were taken up? This is all an attempt to divert attention of the people,� said the senior Congress leader.

Gogoi said the Governor�s address failed to portray the real picture of the State and there is no mention of the Bill in the address.

�How is developmental activity possible if the State witnesses only protests and black flag demonstrations? It is after a very long time that Assam has witnessed such massive protests. During my 15 years as the Chief Minister, I was shown black flags only once,� he said.

He added that the government and the ruling party are wrongly accusing the Congress of provoking the agitation against the Bill.

�Will AASU listen to the Congress party? And why is it that even the State government employees are protesting against the Bill? ... The Governor�s speech in 2017 had clearly mentioned that the Assam Accord will be implemented in letter and spirit. Why not this time?� said Gogoi.

The senior Congress legislator added that the ruling party is acting in a self-contradictory manner by, on one hand, saying that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will be implemented, while, at the same time, also trying to get the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed.

�Nothing was done in the last four-and-a-half years (of the NDA government). And now all of a sudden, just before the next elections, they are talking about Clause 6. Nothing will happen. If you (BJP) really implement Clause 6, I will felicitate you with gamocha,� said Gogoi.

He said the Bill is against the secular spirit of the Constitution. �That is why even parties within the NDA like JD(U) and Shiv Sena have come out against the Bill. The governments of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram have also opposed it,� he said.

He said the Bill is �all politics�. �If there is really persecution, give the persecuted refugee status. I am stating it openly. But during my time as Chief Minister I didn�t receive even a single application. I challenge the government to declare the data regarding the number of people who have sought shelter (in India) due to religious persecution. This is all politics� NRC process was started to make Assam free of foreigners. Now there is a serious attempt to bring foreigners into the country,� Gogoi said.

He added, �I have only talked about the 2016 voters� list with regard to inclusion of names in the NRC� It is so ironic that Hindu Bengalis who voted for the BJP have found their names out of the draft NRC in such big numbers and Amit Shah has termed those very people infiltrators.�

Taking part in the debate, AIUDF MLA Hafiz Bashir Ahmed Kasimi said peace and amity are a must if Assam is to march on the road of progress.

�However, the provocative comments by leaders of the ruling party point to a lack of commitment for maintaining peace and amity. What is happening now is that there is a deliberate attempt to target people belonging to a particular religious community. There are 1.07 crore Muslims in Assam. If anybody believes that the Muslim community will be cowed down by threats then such a belief is not practical,� he said.

Referring to certain comments made recently by some ministers and BJP leaders, Kasimi said such statements reflect a disturbing trend. The geographical boundary of Assam has undergone lot of changes during the last few centuries. The present-day districts of Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Karimganj were part of the Mughal Empire till 1765, while present-day Cachar and Hailakandi were once part of the kingdom of Tripura and later of the Kachari kingdom, he said.

�And now, some are asking why the numbers of people left out of the draft NRC in those districts are so few. But they fail to understand that Bengali-speaking people are indigenous in many parts of the present-day Assam. Till the time of annexation by the British, Barak Valley was not a part of Assam. We need to check and analyse the history. It is unfortunate that all Bengali Muslims are being termed as Bangladeshis,� said the AIUDF MLA.

Kasimi said that while ethnic conflicts have taken place in Assam, the State has no history of religious or communal riots.

Earlier, initiating the debate, BJP MLA Debananda Hazarika said Assam has witnessed all-round development during past two-and-a-half years of the Sonowal government. �Despite all misinformation campaign, BJP and its allies have managed to sweep the elections to various Autonomous Councils,� he said.

Hazarika said the work on the Bogibeel Bridge was completed during the time of the BJP government. �It took 21 years for the bridge to be completed. Nobody said anything all these years. But as soon as the bridge was completed, everybody was hell bent on taking credit. Some elements even tried their best to see that the work on the bridge is not finished. We completed it,� he asserted.

�It is strange that there is so much drama after the name of Dr Bhupen Hazarika was announced for the Bharat Ratna. A senior national level leader made very insulting comments� It is unfortunate that such things are happening. If it had not been for politics, then Dr Hazarika would have got the Bharat Ratna during his lifetime,� he said.

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