When the National Democratic Alliance government scored a political point by getting the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed smoothly, it — or, for that matter, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — had not anticipated what would follow.
Right after the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed by the Lok Sabha a year back, it had sparked protests across the Northeast, particularly Assam. The state was on edge 2019, a year that saw rumblings of discontent and violent protests and the NRC exercise tremors of which were felt across the country. The agitation and protests, spearheaded by the All Assam Students Union (AASU), Left parties and indigenous organisations, intensified after the legislation was cleared by Parliament and soon it would spread across the nation.
The unabated wave of nationwide protests proved to be an interesting turn of events in Indian democracy, something that might have a deeper impact than anyone can fathom at this moment.
Such has been the magnitude and impact of the protests, that PM Narendra Modi, who was supposed to inaugurate the Khelo India Youth Games 2020 in Guwahati on 10th January, has reportedly cancelled his visit. According to local news reports, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) took the decision at the advice of the BJP-led state government.
While politics and sports are never supposed to go hand in hand, a question arises — will the CAA-NRC saga take the limelight away from upcoming Khelo India Youth Games? At a time, when every citizen is either fighting for or against the bill, every media house is widely covering the country-wide protests, is it really a good idea to host the Games right at the epicentre?
'If Olympics could be held during World Wars, why can't Khelo India?'
Khelo India, of course, is the Centre’s flagship sporting event, a platform for the youth of the country to showcase its talent. The first edition was held in 2018 in New Delhi while the second was held in Maharashtra last year. This year, it had been scheduled to be held in Guwahati.
"It was decided six months back that Guwahati would host the Khelo India Youth Games this year and as hosts, the city cannot wait for the Games to start," Lakhya Konwar, Member Secretary of the State Level Advisory Committee for Student and Youth Welfare, Assam Government, tells The Bridge. "Everyone is eagerly waiting for it and the people behind the agitation have also welcomed the Games with open arms. They have said that sports should go on, no matter what."
He then proceeds to point out how the Olympic Games had been organised during the two World Wars back in the day and how a huge crowd had come peacefully for the Indian cricket team's first international match of the year against Sri Lanka. Konwar says:
Konwar further assured that the athletes, coaches and their families who have come for the Games, are facing no problems whatsoever.
It remains to be seen if the Khelo India Youth Games indeed remains unaffected. A few days back, a football ground in Kerala had turned into a protest venue during a match. Can one rule out the possibility of a similar incident in Guwahati during the Games?