Assam Minister Sarma on Polarising Spree Ahead of State Polls, Booked for Promoting Enmity

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Himanta Biswa Sarma

The Guwahati police have registered a case against him at the Bhangagarh police station on the complaint of state Congress general secretary Ranjan Bora

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Himanta Biswa Sarma, a powerful minister in Assam’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, seems to be on a spree to communally polarise the Assamese society ahead of the assembly elections slated for April next year.

Sarma, state Health Minister and rabble-rouser in the Assam BJP, has been constantly making communally-loaded statements to target Muslims in Assam for long.

He had joined BJP in 2016 after leaving the Congress and is quite vocal and bold in raising sentimental issues which appeal to communal passion. Recently, he came into limelight after he shared a doctored video of AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) workers claiming they are raising “Pakistan Zindabad Slogan”.

The video, which was shared by Sarma and other BJP leaders on social media on 6 November, was of AIUDF workers welcoming AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal at Silchar airport. However, fact-checking websites found that the workers were shouting slogans ‘Aziz Khan Zindabad’, and not ‘Pakistan Zindabad’. AIUDF also issued a statement clarifying that the workers were raising ‘Aziz Khan Zindabad’ solgans as Khan is an AIUDF MLA from Assam.

Even Facebook had put a caution and blocked the video from autoplay. However, later, the social media platform, which has been in the news due to its favorable approach towards Hindutva groups, removed the ‘misinformation’ tag without giving any explanation.

Despite flagging the video as ‘doctored’, Sarma did not delete it from his social media accounts claiming that it was “genuine”.

On Monday, the Guwahati police registered a case against him at the Bhangagarh police station on the complaint of state Congress general secretary Ranjan Bora. Sarma, who is also the convener of BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), has been booked for promoting enmity between different groups and attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment.

In his complaint, Bora noted “It will be pertinent to mention herein that the said accused person had a habit of making loose and communally sensitive statements and at a time when assembly elections are around the corner, such statements can create communal tension”.

 AIUDF and the Congress, which had fought the last elections separately and lost, are likely to form an alliance for the upcoming assembly polls. Talking about the video, AIUDF general secretary Ameenul Islam told Clarion India that it was obvious that Sarma targeted his Forum through such doctored video to spread communal feelings and polarise the Hindu votes.

“Sarma wants to spread hatred against Muslims among other communities. He wants polarisation of Hindu votes in favour of the BJP. Their agenda is clear now. In order to achieve their communal agenda, they sometimes raise the issue of Arabic bannerd, Mughal era and Pakistan Zindabad. Everybody knows that the supporters at the airport were shouting ‘Aziz Khan Zindabad’. He is spreading hatred to get votes in favour of BJP,” said Islam.

He said that BJP and Sarma wanted people to vote on the basis of hatred against a community. “This is their open agenda. This is the hate politics they are playing everywhere whether it’s Gujarat or Muzaffarnagar. But, this was not happening in Assam. It has started now here, too.”

In Assam, the BJP government is also shutting down government-funded madrasas and converting them into schools. While announcing the shutdown of madrasas, Sarma claimed that the government cannot fund religious education anymore.

Earlier, he had raised the bogey of love jihad claiming that his government would bring in a strict law against love jihad if his party came to power in 2021 polls. On this issue, he again targeted AIUDF chief Ajmal saying that girls were becoming victims of Ajmal’s culture.

Advocate Hafiz Rashid Choudhry, chairman of the Northeast Bar Council, said that BJP was focusing on a communal agenda because it had failed on all fronts in Assam.

“BJP is facing a lot of issues here. It had promised that it would create employment, attract industries and drive away foreigners. But they could not do anything. Two paper mills have been closed down. Thousands of people became unemployed. Now, they are thinking that the communal polarisation of votes may help them,” said Choudhry.

The advocate said that Sarma was quite provocative on communal issues always but Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal did not talk about such issues, because he knew that the communal issue was not going to help BJP at all but it might damage it instead.

“Sarma will damage BJP itself because Assamese people do not like such things. It will lose its votes rather than getting it more if they continue to follow their communal agenda”, he said.

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