Assam

Guwahati, February 19, 2020:

With the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the Rajya Sabha on December 11, 2020, over 3 crore expectant faces turned towards the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) that had, in the 1990’s led Assam in its agitation against the influx of foreigners.

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The AASU, one of the key signatories of the ‘Assam Accord’, was forced to swing into action to topple the Act that was seen as a gross violation of the “historic” Accord. People found, much to their dismay, that the CAA set 2014 as the cut off date to determine citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

Leading crowds as big as 50,000 in the immediate aftermath of the CAA, the student organization’s leaders trumpeted that they would never ever allow the Act to become a reality for the State. Already “burdened” with “illegal foreigners”, Assam looked to the guidance of the AASU to take the fight to the power corridors of Delhi. However, efforts to defeat the CAA, despite grandiose speeches, have proved to be futile so far, leading many to question: is this revolution truly losing its appeal among the common men and women?

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Prasanta Rajguru, prominent journalist, weighing in on the situation, said, “I do not believe that CAA movement has failed and I do not question the determination of the AASU. However, I believe that all anti-CAA bodies must come together to protest under the same banner. Calls of unity have been made, but who will take the initiative? It either has to be the AASU, the AJYCP, or the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS). KMSS leaders are behind jail and the other two organizations have failed to unite comprehensively, therefore, they have relied on stars like Zubeen and Barsha Rani Bishaya. We cannot afford to look at each other with suspicion in these dire times…”

AASU leader Lurinjyoti Gogoi, who has led vociferous protests against the CAA in Upper Assam, remains optimistic despite the seeming lack of enthusiasm. “You cannot say that the protests have lost their impact”, Lurin tells Inside Northeast, adding, “in fact, the protests are still going on. Be it on the ground or in the legal battlefield. Our eyes are on Delhi and the Supreme Court hearings (where petitions pertaining to Assam and Tripura will be heard separately). We have slackened the protests because of the ongoing examinations. But the protest will continue until the CAA sees its end.”

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Responding to the reports of an AASU-fronted political party tackling the BJP in the upcoming polls, Lurin opined that if the party is formed, it will be “for the people.”

“See, we have been championing a political alternative as it is the will of the people. However, unlike the last time, when we took the initiative to form a party (the ‘Asom Gana Parishad’), this time, our support will be with the citizenry. If they desire our guidance and support, we will be glad to offer the same”, Lurin told us.

Another anti-CAA movement leader, Palash Changmai of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP), singing a similar tune, affirms that intensified protests are being planned for the future. “Look, for the moment, we are looking at the convenience of the students. If we block the National Highway in protest, who is that going to harm? The students, without the shadow of a doubt. Thus, keeping these things in view, we have put the protests on the backburner for the moment.”

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Changmai, upon being asked about the AASU failing to draw big crowds in recent protests, says that the apex student body is not solely responsible for fizzling out of protests. “Look, the AASU has not been singularly given the contract of preserving Assamese culture. The burden equally falls on the rest of us. Thus, to say that the AASU is losing its influence, at this point, would be a bit of a stretch..”

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