Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal comments came soon after mobile internet services were restored in all of Assam, almost 10 days after they were snapped following violent protests over the new citizenship law.
Assam’s chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday once again appeared to put fears against the new citizenship law at rest as he urged people to maintain calm in the northeastern state, where at least five people have been killed in protests that have spun out of control.
Assam has been protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, as groups fear that the newly-amended law would disrupt its ethnic fabric—something which has been at the centre of a decades-long agitation that was resolved in the 1980s.
Student organisations, civil society groups and opposition parties in Assam have been at the forefront of the protests against the citizenship act, saying it would lead to an influx of religious minorities from Bangladesh and hurt the interests of indigenous communities.
A large section opposing the bill, which proposes a cutoff date of December 31, 2014, also says it will nullify the Assam Accord, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants in the state irrespective of religion.
On Friday, Sarbananda Sonowal talked about the honour of Assam and the sons of the soil.
“I want to assure people that no one can steal the rights of the sons of the soil of Assam and there is no threat to our language or our identity,” Sonowal said while speaking to reporters at a press meet in Guwahati.
“In no way will the honour of Assam be affected. We will always have the support of the people and will move forward with peace in the state,” he said.
Sonowal fleshed out how the new citizenship law will work, saying it will not encourage a fresh influx from Bangladesh and that “not a single person of Bangladesh will get to enter Assam through CAA”.
“Only those people who have been living in Assam for decades having fled religious persecution in Bangladesh would be able to apply for Indian citizenship,” he said speaking mostly in Assamese.
The chief minister said once the process of filing applications for citizenship is over, a list of the claimants would be published. He also insisted that the number would be “negligible”.
“It is certain that granting of citizenship cannot have any impact on our social construct. Clause 6 of the Assam Accord grants constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people,” he said.
Sonowal also appealed to the people to not believe in rumours, which are being spread in the state regarding the amended law, and said his government would always work for their best interests.
“People protesting in the state over the Citizenship Amendment Act have different opinions over it, I believe in the republic and respect every individual who is protesting,” he said.
“We will always have the support of the people and will move forward with peace in the state. Assam will always remain for Assamese,” he added.
“I have invited the leaders of anti-citizenship law agitation for talks across the table as I believe that is the only way forward. I believe, together, we chalk out a solution… everything is possible,” he added.
The chief minister’s comments came soon after mobile internet services were restored in all of Assam, almost 10 days after they were snapped following violent protests over the new citizenship law.
Mobile internet services were banned on December 11 in select districts and it was subsequently extended to all of Assam.
Protests had raged in Guwahati and other cities in Assam for the last week against the new citizenship law. The administration responded by deploying a massive security force, clamping curfew in Guwahati and suspending internet.
Four people were killed in Guwahati after being hit by bullets allegedly fired by the security forces as thousands of protesters took to the streets amid a curfew. The city saw multiple cases of violence and vandalism as protestors clashed with security forces.
Assam police officials said the total number of arrests has gone up to 329 even as more than 200 cases have been registered.