Trust this "sevak", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today in a fervent appeal to the Northeast, especially Assam, where protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) have escalated since it was passed in parliament on Wednesday. The Prime Minister was campaigning in Jharkhand when he reached out to the violence-hit northeast.
"I appeal from this stage to the northeast, especially brothers and sisters from Assam and the youth, please trust your sevak Modi. I assure you that I will not allow any harm to the traditions, culture, language and rights of the North East," PM Modi said, investing much of his rally speech on the worsening crisis.
"Anything that makes life easier for the northeast, we will try to do," he said.
The army is out in parts of Assam, patrolling areas where protesters burnt vehicles, blocked traffic and clashed with cops till 3 am this morning. Thousands have defied curfew in Guwahati to come out on the streets. Trains have been stopped and flights have been disrupted.
Student groups and activists are protesting against the citizenship bill, which they believe will change the demographics of the state.
The bill, soon to be law after clearing parliament, aims at giving Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India before 2015.
Protesters say the bill goes against the Assam accord of 1985 - between students bodies, the state government and centre -- which set the deadline for detection and deportation of foreigners as 1971 (compared to 1951 for other states). Many fear that the new bill will burden the state with more immigrants from Bangladesh.
"I want to assure my brothers and sisters in Assam that no one can snatch their rights. Their political legacy, language and culture will be safeguarded in the spirit of Clause 6," PM Modi said, calling it his party BJP's priority. "That's the assurance of the Modi Sarkar, which is always working for the development of the NE."
Clause 6 of the Assam accord refers to constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
The Prime Minister also blamed the "Congress and its friends" for inciting the violence. "They are trying to spread the myth that a large number of people will come from Bangladesh, when this law is only for those who are already refugees," he said.
PM Modi made the same appeal in tweets this morning. "I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of #CAB. I want to assure them- no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish," he tweeted.