Amid protests in Assam over the amended citizenship law the BJP's state unit organised a massive pro-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) booth-level event at Khanapara in Guwahati today. The event, pitched as a show of strength with nearly 1 lakh party workers showing up, was attended by national working president JP Nadda, national general secretary Ram Madhav and others, from booth-level leaders to elected parliamentarians. This is the BJP's first mega-rally in Guwahati, the largest city in the state, since violence broke out across Assam last month.
In visuals of the event a huge crowd of BJP workers and supporters, wearing caps and scarves sporting the BJP symbol and carrying BJP flags can been seen gathered around a large stage set up at one end of a large open ground in the city.
"Our 'karyakartas' (party workers) suffered mentally and physically due to protests against CAA. This rally is to inspire them... rally launched to take correct message about CAA to every village," Dhrubajyoti Maral, a BJP member from the city, said.
"Between December 9 and December 12 we saw massive (violent) protests... supporters, workers were targeted but today close to a lakh BJP supporters are here. This turnaround can only be done by BJP and its workers. This year will be a challenge but BJP is ready," Himanta Biswa Sarma, a minister in the Assam government, said.
He also said the BJP had entered "election mode"; Assembly polls are scheduled in the state next year.
Addressing the crowd today JP Nadda accused the Congress of "using CAA for political gain" and said it was running a "wrong campaign" about the law. "It's about those refugees who are long settled not anyone who comes in after the act is passed," Mr Nadda said.
The BJP leader also hit out at the Congress for drawing connections between the centre's decision on Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the CAA.
"Congress says, 'Have you seen Kashmir? If 370 has gone in Kashmir, what will happen to Assam?' Let them go and find out how people are happy in J&K," he said.
Today's mega-event comes as part of an outreach effort by the BJP in the face of fierce agitations against the CAA; activists in the North East say the law threatens indigenous identities and jobs by opening the region up to a flood of immigrants from Bangladesh.
A party worker told NDTV the event was organised to spread awareness about the CAA from "village to village", as the BJP looks to recover support for the controversial law.
Violent protests broke out in Assam last month, leading to the deaths of at least five people, imposition of curfew in Guwahati and suspension of internet services in several districts.
To counter the BJP's outreach in the state Congress leader and former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said his party would introduce a resolution against implementation of the CAA; on Wednesday Kerala became the first state to pass such a resolution.
The Citizenship Amendment Act makes, for the first time, religion a test of citizenship. The government says it will help non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring Muslim-dominated countries become citizens if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it violates secular tenets of the Constitution and discriminates against Muslims.