In Assam, two valleys divided on CAA, united in its absence as poll plank

Opposition leaders have mentioned CAA in their speeches but it hasn’t emerged as a major poll plank in Barak or Brahmaputra.

WrittenBy:Pratyush Deep
Monindra Das had migrated to India  in 1964. He is not aware of the new CAA rules.

In Barak, murmurs of ‘chaos’

While ‘doubtful’ voters are not allowed to vote, Monindra Das, a 64-year-old from Cachar’s Sidipur, has received his voter information slip for the Lok Sabha poll.

A lawyer termed this as the “chaos” of Assam’s citizenship questions. “Technically, a D-voter or streamlined foreigner cannot vote. But this time, this is happening. This is nothing but the chaos of citizenship,” the lawyer said.

Monindra had migrated to India from Mymensingh district in Bangladesh  with his parents in 1964. In the relief eligibility  certificate issued by the ministry of rehabilitation, the reason for migration was written as “atrocities by Muslims.” 

He was served a D-voter notice in 2013 and was eventually declared a foreigner in 2019 on an ex-parte judgment, but he is planning to challenge the order in the high court. And no one in Monindra’s family is aware of the CAA or its rules. “We have heard of it in the news sometime but not sure what exactly is in it,” he said.

The biometric details of 27 lakh people taken during  the claims and objection process of NRC had been seized  following a Supreme Court order in 2019. 

Meanwhile, in Amtall Bazar in Cachar, Anjali Rai said the names of four of her seven family members were excluded from the final draft of NRC. 

“I was served a notice for D-voter in 2013 but I got a clean chit from the foreigner tribunal. I am yet to get my voter ID,” Rai said.

However, her son Bijoy, who could not make it to the NRC, is more concerned about an Aadhaar card. “I have not been able to open my bank account, I can’t even access any government scheme as my name is not in NRC,” said Bijoy.

Tanya Laskar, a human rights lawyer from Silchar who has been working on the issue of citizenship, said the existing amendments under CAA are making the rules more complicated. “In Assam, you will see there are people who are D-voters, then there are suspected foreigners, then there are others who are neither D-voter nor suspected foreigners – they are simply left out of NRC. It is not clear how these new rules are going to pan out on these people,” she said. 

Despite the discontent, the opposition has an uphill task in Barak.

In Silchar, one of the two Lok Sabha seats in Barak valley which is a traditional stronghold of the BJP due to a huge number of Bengali Hindu migrants, locals claimed the BJP had an edge.

While BJP has fielded state minister Parimal Suklabadya, TMC and Congress have fielded former Karimganj MP Radheshyam Biswas and youth leader Surya Kanta Sarkar, respectively. 

Ram Deb, a local businessman in the Silchar reserved constituency, said the poll prospects of BJP have remained unchanged even when CAA rules don’t help Bengalis.

Akhil Ranjan Dutta, professor of political science in Gauhati University, said there are several reasons why CAA hasn’t been able to make any poll impact in Assam. These include the alignment of ethnic groups with the BJP, the fragmentation of groups that resisted the law, and the change in electoral politics in the state, he said.

While Jorhat voted on April 19, Silchar is among five seats in Assam that will go to the polls on Friday.

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