Assam agitation martyrs' families to return awards

Assam agitation martyrs' families to return awards

Activists participate in a torch light march in protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Guwahati, Wednesday, Jan 9, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Aggrieved with NDA's Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, families of Assam Agitation martyrs have decided to return the awards BJP-led government offered them in 2016 as a recognition of the sacrifices while fighting foreigners.

At least three intellectuals have also refused to be members of a committee mandated to work out ways to implement Clause VI of the Assam Accord, which was signed following the Assam Agitation. 

A citation and Rs. 5 lakh was offered to the families of each of the 860 martyrs, who died while during the Assam Agitation or anti-foreigner movement between 1979-1985. The BJP, which led its first government in Assam in May 2016 with Asom Gana Parishad and Bodoland People's Front as regional allies, had accorded the martyr status to the deceased and offered the financial assistance to their families.

Chandra Kanta Talukdar, secretary of coordination committee of martyrs' families said they would return the awards before January 31 through deputy commissioners in each district to register their protest against the bill.

His brother, Khargeswar Talukdar was the first martyr of the Assam Agitation. "They fought to defend Assamese people against the illegal migrants and now the BJP government is welcoming the foreigners. This demeans the sacrifices," he told reporters here.

The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to offer citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Sikhs, who had migrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan due to 'religious persecution,' after a stay of six years.

Many organisations in Assam are opposed to the bill saying this would make the 'large Hindu illegal migrants' already living in Assam Indian citizens. They fear the move will reduce them into minority and nullify Assam Accord of 1985 that promised to detect, delete and deport illegal migrants by updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) with March 24, 1971 as the cut off date, irrespective of religion.

The clause VI of Assam Accord promised constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of the indigenous Assamese people.

The Centre on Sunday had set up a nine-member committee but Rongbong Terang and Nagen Saikia, two prominent Assamese literateurs and former presidents of Asom Sahitya Sabha refused the offer to protest the bill. 

NBT director resigns

Sahitya Akademi awardee and prominent Assamese writer, Rita Choudhury on Thursday resigned from the post of director of National Book Trust, citing personal ground, amid protests in Assam against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Choudhury's tenure was supposed to end on July 30. Many said she left the post to protest the bill as she was a leader of the Assam Agitation. Choudhury is the wife of Chandra Mohan Patowary, a cabinet minister in the BJP-led Assam government.

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