RSS cleared the air in Northeast, Assam on citizenship bill
Cadre distributed leaflets, reached out to locals to allay their fears and offer clarity on the bill, a move that aided BJP in improving its tally in the region.
The BJP increased its tally of Lok Sabha seats in Assam to nine from seven in 2014. Across Northeast India, it increased the count to 14 from eight. The BJP-led NDA won 18 of the 25 seats in the northeast region.
Ahead of the elections, RSS cadres across Assam had initiated mass contact programmes, where it explained to the people that Bill was not inconsistent with the interest of the indigenous people. The RSS distributed around 90 lakh leaflets explaining what the Bill was all about and why Assam needed it.
In the past one year, there was stout resistance to the Bill, which is aimed at making minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
Assam had witnessed a series of agitations, bandhs and blockades to protest against the government move. There were also some organisations, however, supporting the Bill in Assam’s Barak Valley where the majority speaks Bengali.
A senior RSS leader, who does not want to be named, told ET: “There was a misinformation campaign being unleashed pertaining to the Bill by the Congress party and other organisations. We asked our people to explain to people that the Bill will protect the indigenous people. We motivated the workers to overcome the fear and counter the campaign against the Bill.”
He added: “On January 30 this year, in Tinsukia, when the agitation against the Bill was at its peak following the passage of the Bill in the Lok Sabha on January 8, BJP district president Lakeswar Moran was brutally beaten up by the protesters. Unfazed by this, we asked the workers to hold meetings and meet people. A meeting was organised in Golaghat which was attended by 300 to 400 people. The turnout of the people in this small meeting gave us confidence that the people are prepared to listen to us.”
At several places, people asked if the BJP was out to give citizenship to foreigners en masse, he said. “We explained that it is not like that and there is criteria for providing citizenship and nobody can take away the land of indigenous people. People believed us and the results of parliamentary elections are a testimony to it,” the leader said. “We have won all the seats of Upper Assam, which was the main centre of protest. The BJP won the Guwahati seat. After two decades, we have won both the seats of the Barak Valley.”
He said the RSS effectively countered the peasant organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti led by Akhil Gogoi, the All Assam Students Union and others. “We have explained to the people that this Bill basically meant for stateless people from six communities and there is nothing to worry for it will not lead to influx of immigrants from neighbouring countries.”
As many as 11 political parties from the Northeast, including several of BJP’s allies, had opposed the Bill. The Asom Gana Parishad, a partner of the BJP-led government in Assam, had severed its ties with the government after the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha,but returned to the NDA as the government did not table the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.