An alt-right and ethnic-supremacist, Sarbananda Sonowal served as chief minister of Assam from 2016 to 2021. A former student leader, Sonowal was a senior leader of Assamese nationalist Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) before joining the right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Sonowal shot to fame in Assam when the Supreme Court of India in 2005, on his petition, quashed the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, which required the complainant against an alleged foreigner to submit a nominal fee while registering the complaint.
Despite being incumbent CM and BJP state president before 2021 assembly elections, Sonowal, who comes from a Kachari tribe, gave up his chief ministerial berth in the state for Himanta Biswa Sarma, a Brahmin politician. Sonowal is currently holding the AYUSH and Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways portfolios in Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi’s cabinet.
Sonowal declared that those who don’t make it onto the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list would not be granted constitutional rights. The NRC, updated only in Assam after 1951, aims to identify the alleged illegal foreigners from that legal citizens. During Sonowal’s tenure, the Supreme Court-monitored NRC was published where more than 19 lakh people were left out of the citizenship list.
Ostensibly a low-key man Sonowal, a tribal himself, is credited for building a unique synthesis between the tribals of Assam and Hindutva nationalists.
The two-time MP and two-time MLA is considered very close to Hindutva hardliners, including Prime Minister Modi and home minister Amit Shah.
“He is the representative of illegal migrants. The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) came into being in 2005 after the IMDT [Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal)] Act was repealed in 2005 by a Supreme Court order. The group is an assembly of 14 Muslim fundamentalist groups.”