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Assam Rings in New Year with Vows to Continue Anti-CAA Stir, CM Sonowal Shown Black Flag by Protesters

Students of four Assam universities staged a two-hour demonstration against the legislation in Guwahati and resolved to protest till the amended Citizenship Act is withdrawn.

Karishma Hasnat | CNN-News18

Updated:January 1, 2020, 11:16 PM IST
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Assam Rings in New Year with Vows to Continue Anti-CAA Stir, CM Sonowal Shown Black Flag by Protesters
File photo of protestors gathered for a concert organised by All Artists of Assam against Citizenship Amendment Act in Guwahati.

Guwahati: As the world welcomed a new year, the student community of Assam took a pledge to continue their protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

However, the peaceful uprising seems to have become emotionally taxing for Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. On Wednesday, while talking to reporters, Sonowal said, “‘Muk eghoriya nokoribo, moi koloi jam?’ (Don’t ostracise me, where would I go?)”.

“I am your son, one of you. You have chosen me to lead you, how can I let you down? I have never compromised with the interest of the people of Assam,” he added.

Former Assam DGP Harekrishna Deka refused to buy the CM’s appeal, stating that Sonowal has turned into a “hardcore Hinduist”.

“The Assam CM wonders ‘what wrong have I done?’ Had he searched his heart, he would have known that he has abandoned the secular spirit of the Assamese cultural tradition in the name of Hindu dharma. Assamese culture is very different. When Sonowal puts on the glasses of Hindutva, he does not see the demographic squeeze that has cornered the Assamese and other indigenous people. His present lens is a communal one that does not see the predicament the CAA has brought over the socio-political fate of his own people.”

In Guwahati, students and office-bearers of the unions of the Cotton University, Gauhati University, Tezpur University and the Dibrugarh University assembled at the gate of Cotton University and staged a two-hour demonstration against the new law.

They resolved to continue their protest till the contentious Act is withdrawn. The students have also decided to protest against the Centre’s apathy in dealing with the long-festering issues of the state.

“We have resolved to continue with our agitation and despite the state government trying to curb protests, we will not stop till the Citizenship Act is withdrawn. We will also demand constitutional safeguards as promised, implementation of the Inner Line Permit in Assam and securing employment and land rights for indigenous people,” said Moon Talukdar, general secretary of Gauhati University Post-Graduate Students’ Union.

“We will also protest against economic inequality. Our assets have long been exploited by the Central government, but it is indifferent to our problems. So, we have to be more self-sustainable. We will have to expand the range of opportunities from the roads to the fields. We will have to support our weavers and not buy machine-made ‘gamusas’,” the 23-year-old student leader added.

The state has been engulfed by a wave of anti-CAA demonstrations since last year, and the student fraternity has been taking the lead as thousands continue to take to the streets.

On the first day of the year, protesters in Nalbari district waved black flags at Sonowal’s convoy as it passed through Nalbari-Sarthebari road. They also shouted anti-CAA and anti-government slogans while the convoy was passing through Nalbari and Barpeta districts. The CM was on his way to the ashram of religious preacher Krishnaguru in Barpeta district.

Officials said police had to go for "mild lathi-charge" to whisk away the protesters at Solmara. However, a number of activists of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) were injured in clashes, while two AJYCP members, Hemen Kalita and Dhiraj Kalita were taken into custody.

AASU organising secretary Himan Barman said, "It was a brutal attack by the police. AASU activist Sandan Bezbaruah is critically injured and is now undergoing treatment at a hospital in Nalbari."

Earlier too, on December 30, during the foundation stone-laying ceremony of a primary health centre at Cinnamara tea estate in Jorhat district, three AJYCP workers waved black flags when Union minister Rameswar Teli was delivering his speech in the presence of Sonowal.

Meanwhile, members of the Asom Sahitya Sabha staged a sit-in in Guwahati wearing black masks, and reciting poems in protest against controversial Act.

Notwithstanding the BJP-led state government’s announcement of a corpus of Rs 75 crore for 22 indigenous apex literary bodies, including the Asom Sahitya Sabha, the group has decided to continue its agitation.

“It is our resolution on New Year’s Day to carry forward this stir against the Citizenship Act, and we appeal to all to continue protesting in a logical and democratic way.

"The fund announced for the Asom Sahitya Sabha was long due, and we will accept it because we deserve it — it is a public fund, but if the government thinks it can silent our voice with this, it is totally wrong. We will continue to oppose the CAA at every Sahitya Sabha event,” said the literary body’s president, Paramananda Rajbongshi.

The protesting university students have requested the sabha not to invite any political leader to its 75th biennial session scheduled to be held next month.

Later, in the evening AASU leaders and many prominent personalities lit lamps at its headquarters in memory of the five “martyrs” (protestors killed during violent anti-CAA agitations last month).

Protests have been continuing across all the districts in Brahmaputra valley of Assam since December 9 days after the Citizenship Bill was passed in Parliament.

(With inputs from PTI)

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