BJP suspends minority leader in Assam for voicing support for Rohingya refugees

She had 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.

Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Benazir Arfan (in indigo sari) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Assam last year.
Benazir Arfan (in indigo sari) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Assam last year.(HT File Photo )

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.

A few days ago Benazir Arfan had 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 in the Centre and in Assam are against allowing entry of the Rohingyas to India.

According to an 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 about it with party leaders,” said Muktar Hussain Khan, president of the BJP’s minority unit in Assam.

 

A civil engineer, Benazir (31) had joined the party in 2015 and contested Assembly polls from Jania constituency of Barpeta district in 2016, gathering 6,055 votes against 86,930 by Abdul Khaleque of the Congress. Benazir said she had sent her reply to the showcause notice but was not given the opportunity to be heard. “I should have been summoned by the disciplinary action committee and given the opportunity to defend myself. How could they expel me ex parte?” she said.

Benazir said she was divorced by her husband when the BJP gave her a ticket to contest elections. “I am a victim of triple talaq because of the BJP. My husband threw me out the moment the BJP gave me a ticket,” she said.

Benazir said there was a conspiracy against her in the party. “I had joined the party with high hopes… But the moment I started raising my voice against injustice within the party, I have been pushed to the corner with a well-drawn conspiracy,” she said, adding that she faced the wrath of senior leaders after she pointed out that a particular woman was being handed out several posts.

Like the rest of the world, the current Rohingya crisis is generating 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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