The New Year began in Assam with protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Protesters waved black flags at chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s convoy and organised hunger strikes, processions and rallies to register their protest against CAA that hurled Assam into a cauldron of protests last month.
Sonowal was shown black flags at two places in Nalbari district in lower Assam when his convoy was on way to Krishnaguru Sewashram at Nasatra in Barpeta district. The protest was organised by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP). Police lathicharged AASU members and picked up two AJYCP members.
The incident came hours after Sonowal asked at a media conference: “What have I done that people of Assam have started sidelining me?”
In Guwahati, over 25 organisations, intellectuals and students gathered and took the pledge to continue the movement by joining hands with anti-CAA organisations and individuals from across the country.
Intellectual Hiren Gohain told the gathering, “To retain CAA, the Union and state governments have been torturing and polarising the people of Assam. They are trying to malign the image of the mass movement and term the protesters communal. Despite such state conspiracy, we must maintain the spirit of the anti-CAA movement and establish our political rights. The BJP government is soft only towards corporate bodies, not to citizens. The BJP’s dominating attitude is anarchic. It has been suppressing the voices of the people. The state’s anti-CAA protest will join the nationwide umbrella of protesters from now on.”
Actor Barsha Rani Bishaya, singer Manas Robin and AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai also addressed the gathering. Barsha Rani said the spirit of the youths had made her emotional. “You (government) have brought trouble to the state. The key to peace is in your hands. Please use it,” she said.
While the voice of artistes was loud and clear, former president of Assam Lawyers’ Association Satyen Deka hoped that the Supreme Court would invalidate the Act.
In the afternoon, Robin visited Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader Akhil Gogoi’s house at Selenghat in Jorhat district to enquire about the health of Akhil’s mother, Priyada Gogoi. She had earlier staged a hunger strike, demanding the release of her son. Robin said their protest would continue till “Assam is kept out of the purview of CAA.” Akhil has been booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and is in the custody of National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Asam Sahitya Sabha office-bearers, wearing black masks, staged a sit-in on its Guwahati office premises, a day after the state government announced Rs 10 crore for the Sabha.
At Chabua, Sonowal’s native place, in Dibrugarh district of Upper Assam, the Matak Yuba Chatra Parishad and Veer Lachit Sena organised a cycle rally against CAA. They raised Jai Aai Axom slogan, demanded jobs for the family members of the five persons who died in suspected police firing during anti-CAA protest and the release of the anti-CAA movement leaders like Akhil Gogoi, Jiten Dutta and Shrinkhal Chaliha.
At Sarupathar in Golaghat district, the Dhansiri unit of the All Assam Chutia Students Union organised a 12-hour hunger strike from 5am.
Singer Zubeen Garg, in a New Year message, appealed to the people to be united and participate in anti-CAA protests. “We will win. We are hopeful,” he said.
Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who met Union home minister Amit Shah on Wednesday, said good news was coming. “Had a long discussion with him (Shah) about identity issues of Assamese, aspirations of our tribal communities and strengthening nationalist thought process in Northeast. Will hear some good news soon,” Sarma tweeted.
Additional reporting by Debananda Medak