The Assam government issued a gag order for higher education department employees today, warning them against making statements or expressing opinions that criticise the administration. This comes less than a week after elementary education department officials were slapped with similar instructions; all employees, including contractual workers, were also prohibited from taking part in political activities. According to the state government such comments violate provisions of the Assam Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules of 1964 and a cell has been formed to monitor "such prohibited activities".
"It is brought to the notice of all concerned that under Rule 7 of the Assam Civil Service (Conduct) Rules, 1965, a government servant shall not make any statement of fact or opinion criticising the government," the order, issued by G Phukan, Director of the Higher Education Department of Assam, read.
"If the government servant is found criticising the government, he or she will be held responsible for violation of Rules 3 and Rule 7 of Assam Civil Service (Conduct) Rules," the order continued.
All principals of government and provincialised colleges have been sent copies of the order.
Many believe these orders come in the wake of college teachers taking part in protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA.
Bondita Bora, a faculty member at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Jorhat district, was suspended last week for "unauthorised participation" in anti-CAA protests between December 10 and 16. She has since been reinstated.
Last week BJP leader and Cabinet Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the government had no problem with people protesting in a democratic manner or raising their views on social media. He said the government was only against those who made "provocative" comments and disrupted social harmony.
Widespread agitations against the law broke out in Assam and many parts of the North East even as the legislation was being debated in parliament earlier this month.
Multiple columns of the Army were dispatched, and the government suspended mobile and internet services and imposed a curfew in Guwahati. At least five were killed in the protests.
Many in the North East fear the CAA will lead to a massive influx of immigrants from Bangladesh and change their demography, robbing them of their identity.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act makes, for the first time, religion the test of Indian citizenship. The central government says this will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it discriminates against Muslims and violates secular principals of the Constitution.