BJP suspends minority leader in Assam for voicing support for Rohingya

Guwahati: The Bharatiya Janata Party has suspended a leader of its Assam state executive committee belonging to the minority community for voicing support for Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees, reported the Hindustan Times, a newspaper based in India.

A few days ago Benazir Arfan had apparently uploaded a post on Facebook requesting people to attend a fast in protest against the treatment meted out to the Rohingyas by the Myanmar government.

The programme organised by the United Minority Peoples Forum, a Guwahati-based NGO, was to be held in the state capital on September 16 to show support to the thousands of Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar.

The post generated controversy in the BJP circles as the saffron party’s governments at the Centre and in Assam are against allowing entry of the Rohingyas to India.

According to a UN estimate, 409,000 Rohingya have fled violence-wracked Rakhine state since August 25 when Myanmar army launched a major crackdown to avenge an attack on security forces by Rohingya rebels.

On Thursday, BJP’s state unit general secretary Dilip Saikia sent a letter to Arfan suspending her from the party with immediate effect and giving her three days time to explain why disciplinary action should not be initiated against her.

“Despite being an active BJP member, you posted in social media seeking support for a programme organised by another organisation in connection with a problem related to Myanmar, without initiating any discussion about it in party platforms,” the letter said.

“Considering your act as against the party’s rules and ideology, the BJP state unit president has relieved you of all responsibilities and suspended you from the party,” it added.

Arfan, who was the party’s candidate from the Jania constituency in Barpeta district in last year’s assembly polls, terms the action as vindictive.

“My only mistake was that I wrote ‘a protest fast’ instead of a ‘prayer meeting’ for Rohingyas, both Hindus and Muslims, who died while fleeing Myanmar. I apologised for the wrong use of words, but the party didn’t listen,” she said.

The 30-year-old victim of triple ‘talaq’, who had spoken against the practice from party platforms in the past, said she wasn’t given a chance to explain her stance and suspended without any warning.

“She shouldn’t have raised such a sensitive issue on social media without first discussing it with party leaders,” said Mukhtar Hussain Khan, president of the BJP’s minority unit in Assam.

Like the rest of the world, the current Rohingya crisis is generating a lot of attention in Assam as well.

Last week, several opposition Congress MLAs staged a walkout from the assembly after Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami refused to allow an adjournment motion on the issue.

Congress legislator Abdul Khaleque urged the government to grant temporary shelter to the Rohingyas in Assam or other parts of the country as a humanitarian gesture.

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