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'BJP wants to make Assam into a Kashmir'

December 16, 2019 08:43 IST

'Assam is not a dumping ground for Bangladeshi Hindu refugees,' says Assamese actor Ravi Sharma who joined the BJP in August and quit the party on December 10 in protest against the Citizenship Act.

IMAGE: A protest in Guwahati against the Citizenship Act. Photograph: PTI Photo

Assamese actor Ravi Sarma, who quit the Bharatiya Janata Party in protest against the Citizenship Act, fears a demographic change in his home state with the new legislation.

Sarma. who joined the BJP in August this year, quit the party on December 10 stating that he was against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which at that time was facing Parliament's vote, because he foresaw Assam being dominated by people of Bengali origin once the Act came into force.

"Assam cannot take on the extra burden of Bangladeshi Hindus. Assam is not a dumping ground for Bangladeshi Hindu refugees," Sarma tells's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

When he joined the BJP in August, one of the reasons he had touted was the BJP's interest in developing Assamese films which gave him the urge to join the saffron party.

Apart from Sarma, National Award-winning film-maker Jahnu Barua last week withdrew his film Bhoga Khirikee (Broken Window) from the Assam film awards in protest against the CAA.

"There is no Internet in the state, can you believe this? This is not what you call democracy. The BJP wants to make Assam into a Kashmir as there is no Internet connection in our state just like in Jammu and Kashmir."

"In Tripura the indigenous population has been reduced to 32% because of such influx and with the Citizenship Act coming into effect, soon the Bengali population will overtake Assamese. I fear Bengali will soon become the official language of Assam which is a genuine fear among the Assamese."

The fear is not unfounded. Under British rule, from 1836-1873, Bengali was the official language of Assam.

The BJP, says Sarma, is playing vote bank politics with the CAA, targeting voters of Assam's Barak valley which has a majority Bengali-speaking Hindu population.

Assam is divided into five regions: The Barak valley, Central Assam, Lower Assam, North Assam and Upper Assam.

While the rest of Assam erupted in protest over the Citizenship Act, the Barak Valley, which has districts like Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj, is peaceful. Many Bangladeshi Hindu refugees have settled there.

Asked how peace can return to Assam, Sarma says, "Just like other north eastern states of India which have an Inner Line Permit policy where the CAA gives protection to the indigenous population, the same rule must apply to Assam too. Only then can the Assamese language, culture and demography be protected."