India: Fall Of Anti-CAA Movement In Assam – OpEd

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Even though many biased elements tried to put Assam in northeast India in a volatile situation once again, they have failed to mobilise the common people with the sentiment of Assamese nationalism, as it surfaced five years back, when the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was presented in the Indian Parliament.

Prior to the corona induced lock-down across the country, Assam witnessed a massive public outcry opposing the CAB by the end of 2019. Various anti-national elements grabbed the opportunity to indulge in outspread violent activities in Guwahati following which the curfew was clamped. Even five people became the victims of circumstance as the State police resorted to firing with an aim to bring the law & order situation under control.

It may be mentioned that soon after the Union home ministry’s 11 March notification of the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, many individuals and organizations in Assam pronounced uproarious statements against the CAA and urged the people to come to the streets demanding its immediate repeal. Some approached the Supreme Court of India to nullify the act claiming that it’s unconstitutional. The petitioners challenged in the apex court with arguments that the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024 can not ignore the Muslim refugees.

However, the argument against the CAA in Assam had a different perspective where most of the agitators maintained, Assam Accord must not be challenged by the CAA guidelines. The accord, signed after six years long historic agitation to identify and deport illegal migrants (read East Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals) from Assam reached a date of 21 March 1971, after which nobody should be offered citizenship in Assam. All Assam Students Union (Aasu), which was the prime party to sign the Assam Accord (1985) in presence of the then Congress Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, launched a series of protest demonstrations against the CAA notification.  

Aasu along with 30 indigenous organisations burnt copies of the CAA during the protest rallies in Guwahati, Nalbari, Barpeta, Golaghat, Tezpur, Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, etc. However, their programs could not motivate the common Assamese even in the Brahmaputra valley (not to speak of Barak valley). Facing the heat on ground, the Aasu leaders moved to New Delhi and approached the SC to repeal the CAA. The petitioners are supported by the opposition political party leaders, where they argued that the CAA was only a political tool for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to win Lok Sabha polls in Bengal, Assam and Tripura.

Meanwhile, a popular Assamese singer (once he was a star anti-CAB campaigner) has faced criticism from his fellow musicians. Recently the singer took to his social media space to reiterate firm opposition to the CAA rules. He pledged to raise voices against the particular act, but understanding the mood of people he commented that no more deaths are welcomed again. Now the critics denounce him for taking the position of an opportunist.

Amidst the developments, a forum of nationalist citizens, came out with a statement where it appreciated the mainstream Assamese society for taking rational views on the CAA despite ‘provocative statements from some so-called intellectuals, journalists, and political analysts’. However, the forum urged both the governments in New Delhi and Dispur to convince the people that the CAA deadline of 31 December 2014 will not be extended anymore. The forum also urged the Union government to strongly pursue with the governments of Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to stop indulging in religious persecution against the minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, Christians, etc).

Probably, the people could realise that they were misguided by the so-called anti-CAA leaders that the act was applicable for Assam only and more people (read more than one crore Hindu Bangladeshi) were entering the State after its implantation who would be settled in barren lands. The motivated arguments soon vanished and the conscious citizens could only see some individuals start ripping benefits out of the anti-CAA movement. Meanwhile, many front runner agitators had joined the saffron party to try their luck in electoral politics. Now they have started playing different music (which is exactly opposite to the version propagated five years ago).

After all, how many instances do the Assam residents need to disown the anti-CAA movement?

Nava Thakuria

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Assam, Northeast India) based journalist

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