ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Assam’s Politics and the NRC

Assam’s Politics and the NRC

A response to “Assam’s 2019 Verdict and the Anti-CAB Mobilisations” by Akhil Ranjan Dutta (EPW, 28 December 2019) points to long-run strategies that the Bharatiya Janata Party and its parent organisation have used to consolidate power in Assam. Re-imagination of the “indigenous” has helped it build alliance with regional forces, but anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests exposed the vulnerability of this formula. The futility of the National Register of Citizens exercise in resolving the immigration conundrum in Assam should convince one that the answer to cultural anxieties lies in the political sphere.

We read, with interest, Akhil Ranjan Dutta’s article, “Assam’s 2019 Verdict and the Anti-CAB Mobilisations” (EPW, 28 December 2019). Dutta’s article was partly in response to our article (“Assam: BJP’s Consolidation, Congress’s Lost Opportunities,” EPW, 22 June 2019). Dutta’s response did a good job by bringing new points to the discussion. This added value to the discussion on the quickly changing sociopolitical landscape of Assam. We believe a few more additions could be made, so that one can have a better understanding of what the present entails, and how the future may unfold.

The most important element that Dutta underlines is the painstaking ground-level work, in this region and over many decades, that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been engaged in. The activities have targeted a number of marginalised groups. The “tea tribes” (the descendants of indentured labourers from Chhota Nagpur Plateau region who migrated to Assam during the British Raj) is one such target group. Tea gardens are concentrated in eastern Assam, also called upper Assam. Dutta is right in pointing out that the Sangh Parivar’s special attention to the tea tribes may explain the fantastic performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in eastern Assam. This particular constituency was nurtured not only by the RSS, but by the BJP-led state government as well. The generous welfare initiatives for the tea tribes by the BJP-led state government, which came to power in 2016, may have contributed to the strong support it got. Aside from tea tribes, the Sangh Parivar and the BJP government have assiduously courted indigenous tribal groups of the region. Schools, crèches, hostels, hospitals, a huge and minutely detailed welfare infrastructure are being run in areas with high tribal population. This operation runs parallel to the state paraphernalia of welfare disbursal, which is unreliable, functions dismally, and is partially privatised.

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Updated On : 4th Feb, 2020

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