Assam businessman goes 'biryani' route to oppose Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, appeals to compatriots for support

Simantik Dowerah
The BJP feels it would be able to make electoral inroads by pandering to a major section of the Bengali voters by invoking sentiments of Bengali linguistic nationalism especially in respect of those Hindu ‘refugees’ likely to enter India from Bangladesh.

Amid the clarion call to oppose the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, tooth and nail from various political parties to different regional outfits, an Assam entrepreneur has found a unique way to express his opposition and urge people to rise up and prevent the bill from becoming a law. Marylen Dutta owns MD Biryani House in Guwahati. Each packet of biryani he sells has this message pasted on it in the form of a sticker:

The sticker printed in Assamese reads in English: "We are completely opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. As a true Assamese you also do the same."

MD Biryani House is situated near the Assam Engineering College in Guwahati's Jalukbari locality.

"I am a small time businessman. However, as an Assamese, I feel it's my duty to oppose this controversial bill. We cannot allow foreigners to settle down here and take over everything. So whatever I am doing is in my own small way is to oppose the bill and asking people to come forward and oppose the bill. It is high time we do it now or else our future generations will have nothing to call anything their own. I have been doing it for the last three months," Dutta told Firstpost.

He manages to sell 50 to 150 packets of biryani a day to students and staff of the engineering college and the number even goes up to 300 when the institution holds any symposium or seminar or any other academic activity.

"Besides selling biryani packets near the engineering college, I also cater to various customers all over Guwahati be it weddings or birthdays. On an average, I sell around 7,000 packets of biryani a month," Dutta said.

However, his innovative idea of expressing his displeasure with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has run into rough weather at times. "There are those who are against my action of appealing to the people through biryani packets. Many a time, they take to social media to malign me or my shop. However, I am not bothered. I won't call them 'foreigners', but yes they disapprove of what I am doing. I am responding to my conscience and doing my bit for my people and for my land," Dutta said.

There is a fear in Assam that the BJP-led Centre wants to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to enable Hindus from Bangladesh, who have long been living in Assam without valid citizenship, to become citizens of India and thereby use them as a vote bank. The attempts to pass this bill into an Act at a time when the work to the update the National Register of Citizens of India is going on in full swing under the supervision of the Supreme Court has angered various sections of citizens in the state.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in July 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to give citizenship by naturalisation to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who came to India before 31 December, 2014.

The amended portion of Section 2 of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 reads: "In the Citizenship Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), in section 2, in sub-section (1), after clause (b), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:€" "Provided that persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act."

The political conundrum triggered by the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 may snowball into a major crisis between the two ruling alliance partners BJP and the Asom Gana Parishad.

Assam agriculture minister and Asom Gana Parishad president Atul Bora in September warned his party will break its alliance with the BJP in the state if the Centre passes the bill.

"Currently, we (Asom Gana Parishad) are a part of the BJP led Assam government. If Centre passes the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 in the Parliament then we will break our alliance with the state government," Bora told ANI.

Also See: Assam groups opposing citizenship bill seek meeting with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, threaten mass movement

Assam bandh today: 60 groups protest against citizenship bill; Sonowal govt makes attendance in office mandatory

Assam bandh: Citizenship Amendment bill becomes flashpoint for BJP, ally AGP; shutdown halts road, rail traffic in key districts

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