CAA implementation: Protests erupt in Assam amidst opposition backlash

AASU and 30 indigenous non-political organisations burn copies of the Act and organise protest rallies in different parts of the state

Protestors burn copies of the CAA in  Assam's capital Gauhati (photo: PTI)
Protestors burn copies of the CAA in Assam's capital Gauhati (photo: PTI)


Protests erupted across Assam with opposition parties condemning the BJP government at the Centre for implementing the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA), paving the way for granting citizenship to undocumented non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on Monday.

The AASU (All Assam Students' Union), which had spearheaded a six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants in 1979, said it will fight the legislation in and outside court.

AASU and 30 indigenous non-political organisations burned copies of the Act and organised protest rallies in different parts of the state, including capital Gauhati, Kamrup, Barpeta, Lakhimpur, Nalbari, Dibrugarh, Golaghat and Tezpur.

The 16-party United Opposition Forum Assam (UOFA) announced a statewide hartal on Tuesday, besides taking up other agitational programmes in a phased manner.

Security has been tightened across the state with additional deployment of police personnel following the implementation of the Act, according to a senior police official. All police stations in the state have been put on alert, while barricades have been set up on major thoroughfares in almost all the towns which witnessed widespread protests during the passage of the Act in December 2019, with five people losing their lives to police firing.

AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharjya told PTI: ''We will continue with our non-violent, peaceful, democratic movement against the CAA. Alongside, we will also continue our legal fight."

On Tuesday, copies of the CAA will be burned by the North East Student Organisation (NESO) in all the state capitals of the region, he said. "We will also take out torchlight processions in Assam, and launch a satyagraha the next day," he said.

Raijor Dal president and MLA Akhil Gogoi, who spent 567 days in jail for his alleged role in the 2019 anti-CAA agitation before a special NIA court cleared him of all charges, led a protest rally in Golaghat district.

The Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP), which was formed after the anti-CAA movement in the state in 2019-20, staged protests in different parts of the state. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also staged a protest in front of their state office, around 2 km from the state secretariat in Gauhati.

Pointing out that the Sixth Schedule areas and states with provisions for Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the North-East have been exempted from CAA, Bhattacharjya said, "Our question is, if something is bad for some parts of NE, how can it be good for the other parts? In Assam too, in eight districts it will not be enforced."

He said AASU and the other indigenous bodies will not accept the CAA and will continue to protest against it. “We are already in talks with our advocates and will continue our legal fight against its implementation,'' he said.

The UOFA in a statement asserted that Assam cannot accept the load of illegal foreigners as it wholeheartedly favours implementation of the Assam Accord, which says all foreigners coming to the state on or after 25 March 1971 will be detected and deleted from electoral rolls, and steps would be taken to deport them.

"We will not accept the CAA at any cost as it will destroy the Assamese community. It will finish our language, literature, culture and identity," according to a UOFA statement.

Congress leader of the opposition in the Assam assembly Debabrata Saikia termed the notification of CAA as "unfortunate".

“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP had been saying since 2016 that all illegal foreigners will have to leave Assam, they betrayed the people of the state and brought in the CAA,'' Saikia told PTI. The people of Assam will make the PM and the BJP answerable for it, he added.

Raijor Dal president Gogoi told PTI, "The process to legitimise 15-20 lakh Bangladeshi Hindus illegally living in Assam has begun. There is no other way but to come out on the street and protest against this unconstitutional act.''

A section of the people of the region were scared that if the CAA was implemented, it would endanger their identity and livelihood. "Assam's long struggle against illegal immigration has been nullified with just this one act. This act will also open the doors for 1.7 crore Hindus living in Bangladesh to cross over to Assam," Gogoi said.

Meanwhile, BJP senior spokesperson Rupam Goswami welcomed the notification of the rules of the CAA. "There was a misinformation campaign by the opposition that crores of Hindus from Bangladesh would enter Assam after the law was passed by Parliament, but nothing of that sort has happened'', Goswami said.

AIUDF MLA Ashraful Hussain told PTI that the BJP has implemented the CA before the Lok Sabha polls as it is "greedy" for Bangladeshi Hindu votes. "We favour Indian citizenship for anyone coming to Assam before 25 March 1971, and it should not be based on any religion or community," Hussain said.

AJP general-secretary Jagadish Bhuyan told PTI that the people of Assam had protested against the CAA but the BJP ignored their emotions and notified the rules based on the strength of their numbers.

Assam AAP president Bhaben Choudhury told PTI that "this day will be marked as a 'black day' in Assam's history and BJP will be remembered as a traitor for imposing the communal and anti-community CAA".

CPI(M) Assam state secretary Suprakash Talukdar told PTI the ministry of home affairs had said in Parliament that the government had no plans to introduce the law as long as it was sub-judice.

With the CAA rules being issued, the Modi government can now grant Indian nationality to persecuted non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who came to India until 31 December 2014. These include Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians. The law could not come into effect as rules had not been notified till now.

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