The message is loud and clear: Assam is soon going to have a new political outfit born out of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act movement.
Although the leadership of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) — which is leading the movement — is maintaining a studied silence on the development, there is enough indication to believe that the new political party will be helmed by it. "We are an apolitical organisation. Look at our history and you will know that AASU has never aligned with any political party. We will maintain non-alliance in the years to come. But it is true that there is a buzz among the people that there is a need for a political party to deal with the concerns of the indigenous people in Assam as all the political parties have failed to implement the Assam Accord," said Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, advisor to AASU, on the sidelines of a press conference in Delhi.
Sources in the anti-CAA movement leadership said on condition of anonymity that a new political party is most likely to emerge in Assam at an opportune moment before the Assembly polls that are slated for the early part of next year.
"If we cannot give an alternative to the people of Assam, they will not forgive us this time around," added the source, noting that while there was an anti-Citizenship Amendment Bill movement just before the Lok Sabha polls last year, there was no alternative given to the people, on account of which the BJP won nine out of 14 Lok Sabha segments in the state.
"There were only two main options for the people — the BJP-led alliance and the Congress. Since the Congress is seen as the creator of the problem of illegal immigration, it was not seen as an option. The only option left was the BJP — a situation the party exploited," said the source.
Significantly, just before the Lok Sabha polls, the CAB was passed in the Lok Sabha, but the government refrained from tabling it in the Rajya Sabha amidst massive protests in the North East. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had promised that the government would rework the bill to make it favourable to the region. But when the bill was finally passed in both the Houses on 12 December last year, the people of Assam found it unacceptable as their main contention against the law was still not resolved.
"The BJP came to power in the 2016 Assembly polls by promising to implement the Assam Accord in letter and spirit. Nowhere did the party mention that it is going to grant citizenship to new illegal migrants. But now, the government is hell-bent on defying the Assam Accord by granting citizenship to illegal immigrants through the CAA," Bhattacharya said. He also said that the victory of the BJP in Assam in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls should not be seen as people's support for the CAA.
"The 2019 Lok Sabha was not a referendum, because the AASU was not in the fray," he added.
Mass violence broke out after the bill was passed in both Houses and mayhem ruled the state for two consecutive days amidst spontaneous protests. "Since the third day of the protests, AASU took charge of the movement from the mob and ensured that it continued in a peaceful manner. To prevent further unrest, demonstrations during the night were avoided. Now Assam is continuing a peaceful protest in a Gandhian way where men, women, government officials and people from different faiths have participated," he added.
It's worth noting that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and a host of other leaders including Himanta Biswa Sarma were once all leaders in the AASU. The student body's tryst with politics began in 1985 after the signing of the Assam Accord that marked the culmination of a six-year-long anti-immigration movement. Asom Gana Parishad, the political party that was formed by the leaders of the movement, has also been seen as a failure in implementing the Assam Accord.
Any new political party formed now will have to take on the might of all the political parties that ruled Assam after 1985. In the past 34 years, the Congress, Asom Gana Parishad and BJP ruled Assam leading to the drying-up of options for people of the state in their bid to implement the Assam Accord. The passage of the CAA has now ploughed a fertile political field for the AASU to reap the fruit of the disgruntlement of people against most political parties.
"The Congress ruled the state for a pretty long period. The Asom Gana Parishad ruled for 10 years. People elected the BJP,which was led by former AASU leader Sonowal in 2016, with the same hope. But instead of solving the problem, he supported the bill proving himself to be a traitor," said Bhattacharya, alleging that the state government has been using repressive measures to dominate the movement, by killing peaceful agitators and imposing irrelevant sections of the Indian Penal Code on activists.
The Assam Accord sets the deadline of 25 March, 1971 for Assam to determine who is an illegal immigrant. "The accord was a national commitment to detect and deport anyone who entered Assam illegally. There is no special provisions for Hindus or Muslims. But the CAA extends the deadline to Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Budhhist and Jain immigrants up to 31 December, 2014. Assam will not accept any more Bangladeshis of any religion anymore," he asserted.
Significantly, although the anti-CAA movement has created a whirlwind in Assamese society, the anti-BJP emotion is yet to seep deeper into society. "The home minister has recently said that the government will not take a step back on the issue of the CAA. Than we would also like to say that the peaceful movement will continue in Assam till the bill is scrapped," Bhattacharya added. He also stated that all daily activities will continue in Assam along with the movement.
"We assure that the Khelo India Youth Games will also face no hindrance due to the movement. But if the Prime Minister of India visits Assam, we will protest in a democratic manner," he said.
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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2020 11:02:04 IST