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The transition of Sarbananda Sonowal from Jatiya Nayak to ‘Jatiya Khalnayak’

GUWAHATI: In 2005 Sarbananda Sonowal was honoured with the Jatiya Nayak (National Hero) title by the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) after the Supreme Court struck down the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act 1983.

In 2011, he joined the BJP following differences with a section of senior Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leaders.

In 2016, the former AASU president became chief minister of Assam representing the BJP.

In 2019, the AASU withdrew the Jatiya Nayak title after the BJP government at the Centre enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.

And, finally on February 8, 2021, the AASU-backed Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) tagged him the “Jatiya Khalnayak” (National Villain), courtesy the Centre’s move to privatise the Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi International Airport here.

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The latest development followed the AASU branding its former long-time leader as the “black sheep” of the apex students’ organisation that spearheaded the historic six-year-long Assam Agitation till signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.

Leading an AJP march of hundreds of party workers from Horse Field to the airport here today, AJP leader Dulu Ahmed said: “The Narendra Modi government’s move to hand over the LGBI Airport to Adani Group cannot be tolerated in Assam … And chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s silence over is it is even more intolerable for the people of Assam. He was once the Jatiya Nayak and now he has transformed himself to Jatiya Khalnayak.”

Ahmed said the party will continue with the agitation till rollback of the deal. The protesters shouted slogans like “Adani Go Back”, “Narendra Modi Murdabad”, “Sarbananda Sonowal Kaam Nai”, “Stop privatization of Assam’s assets and resources” etc.

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Handing over a memorandum to the regional executive director of Airport Authority of India (AAI), AJP general secretary Jagadish Bhuyan said: “Prime Minister Modi seems to be developing a parallel Adani-Ambani-centric economy with that of the national economy. I shows his Gujarati regionalism. We are not opposed to anybody’s regionalism that can help development in any part of the country. But, if Modi can follow his Gujarati regionalism occupying the prime minister’s chair, we would also expect our chief minister to follow the principles of Assamese regionalism and oppose these moves detrimental to the economy of a small state like Assam.”

“The airport at Guwahati is named after the Bharat Ratna recipient Late Gopinath Bardoloi, the first chief minister of Assam after Independence. Late Bardoloi was a highly respected chief minister in the entire north east region and the country. He was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle. Late Bardoloi is still revered by the people of Assam as the savior of north east region from the politics of its merger with the then East Pakistan.

“The airport has now been handed over to the Adani Group without any consent of the people of Assam in violation of the federal spirit of our Constitution. The people of Assam are dismayed at the decision of the Central Government to hand over the airport to the private sector,” the AJP stated in the memorandum. “Our party is strongly against the handing over the management of LGBI Airport to the Adani Group of business. We protest against the action of the central government and it will remain an issue with us for future also,” the memo added.

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