Explained | Why is the anti-CAA movement gathering steam in Assam?

Representative Image   | Photo Credit: PTI

The repeal of the three controversial farm laws has stimulated the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act groups in Assam. They have announced a slew of protest programmes from December 10, coinciding with the death anniversary of Khargeswar Talukdar, revered in the State as the first ‘martyr’ of the six-year Assam Agitation against ‘illegal immigrants.’ Organisations in other northeastern States, specifically Meghalaya, have echoed similar anti-CAA sentiments.

Also read: Centre seeks extension till January 9 for framing rules on CAA

What is the CAA and why are Assam groups opposed to it?

Passed by Parliament on December 11, 2019, the CAA prescribes preferential citizenship for non-Muslims who fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and took refuge in India till December 31, 2014. This stirred sentiments in BJP-ruled Assam, where indigenous groups have harboured the fear of being outnumbered by migrants from Bangladesh and settlers from elsewhere in India.

Groups such as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which spearheaded the 1979-85 Assam Agitation, and activist-turned-MLA Akhil Gogoi’s Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) said the CAA would make the State a dumping ground for Bangladeshis. Besides, they said the law violated the Assam Accord of 1985, which set March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for detecting, detaining and deporting foreigners – irrespective of religion – living in the State illegally.

Also read: CAA ‘absolute failure’, says civil society group

What happened in December 2019?

Assam was the first State to oppose the CAA, with the regional Asom Gana Parishad temporarily pulling out of the alliance with the BJP after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha in January 2019. A series of protests since then culminated in a wave of violence when the Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on December 11 that year.

Protestors ran amok in Guwahati and other places, setting vehicles and public property on fire. At least five people were killed as the police and armed forces personnel fired to disperse mobs. Anti-CAA groups hit the streets elsewhere in the country but the intensity of the protests gradually reduced in Assam before the COVID-19 lockdown was announced in March 2020.

Also read: NRC in limbo, Assam govt. appears to have gone soft on ‘Bangladeshi’ issue

Who is leading the renewed movement?

The 2019 protests were led simultaneously by the AASU and the KMSS. The relaunch of the movement to mark the second anniversary of Parliament passing the Bill appears to be headed the same way. The Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP), a political party formed after the anti-CAA movement a year ago, has joined the bandwagon.

“The farmers showed what we can achieve by agitating relentlessly and making sacrifices. They have inspired us to not make any compromise on the CAA,” AJP president Lurinjyoti Gogoi said. The AASU has also announced a series of protests but its chief advisor Samujjal K. Bhattacharya, whose clout in the organisation has been on the wane, is making the statements.

The KMSS is part of the Coordination Committee Against CAA, an umbrella organisation that includes the CPI (Marxist) and the Liberal Democratic Party. Deben Tamuli, the committee’s chief coordinator, said they would chalk out the strategy of carrying the movement forward after a demonstration-cum-protest on December 12.

Are other north-eastern States protesting?

The other north-eastern States have been relatively quiet on the CAA except for Meghalaya, where groups such as the Khasi Students’ Union and the Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People have vowed to go all out to make the Centre repeal the Act that “goes against the sentiments of the indigenous peoples and threatens their existence in the State”.

Leaders of these groups said their anti-CAA protest will continue alongside the movement for the implementation of the Inner-Line Permit (ILP) in Meghalaya. The ILP is currently applicable in four northeastern States – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. It is a temporary travel document an Indian has to possess to enter these States.

Elsewhere in the country, organisations such as the New Delhi-based Rights and Risks Analysis Group have called upon the Centre to repeal the CAA and instead enact an all-encompassing refugee law to protect the refugees fleeing to India to escape persecution. “The CAA has been an absolute failure. It does not protect even the refugees belonging to religious minorities from neighbouring countries who had entered into India prior to December 31, 2014,” the group said in a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 5:21:46 AM |

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