‘Joi Aai Asom’: Assam Simmers Over Citizenship Amendment Bill

Assam Chief Minister Sonowal said that a section has maligned the image of the state by spreading misinformation that only Assam will have to again bear the burden of illegal immigrants


‘Joi Aai Asom’ – the iconic slogan rents the air as the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB intensified in Assam.

Assam has been witnessing massive non-stop protests, both during the day and night, like those during the anti-foreigner Assam Movement in the eighties. Large numbers of students, common citizens, civil society, political groups, artists have hit the streets since the Bill was cleared bu the Union Cabinet.

The slogan ‘Joi Aai Asom’ (Hail Mother Axom) penned by renowned poet Lakshminath Bezbaruah, was the clarion call for the 1979-85 movement against “outsiders” or “illegal foreigners” led by the All Assam Students Union (AASU). With time, the slogan became a virtual war cry in the state.

On December 9th, 2019, the Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Amit Shah amid strong protest and sloganeering by the opposition leaders. At the end of the heated debate, 293 votes were in favour of the tabling of Bill in Lok Sabha and only 82 votes were against the introduction of Bill in the House.

The protest turned violent on December 9th, 2019 as around 100 anti-Bill protestors vandalised the office of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an ally of BJP in the state, in Dibrugarh. The ruling party ministers, MPs and MLAs in Assam became the targets of protestors.

The protestors are gheraoing, grilling the lawmakers on the Bill wherever they are finding them. Black flags were shown to the lawmakers including the Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The protestors are also staging protests outside the residence of the ruling party lawmakers. Effigies of Sonowal, AGP president Atul Bora and PM Narendra Modi were hanged with ‘suicide notes’ in different districts of the state.

In the wake of protests, the police have imposed prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 in parts of Guwahati and other districts. In Guwahati, the freshly-painted walls were defaced with anti-CAB slogans. Protestors blocked roads, burnt tyres, damaged vehicles and pelted stones at police personnel during the strike called by the All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union, All Assam Chutia Students’ Union and All Moran Students Union on December 9th, 2019.

Normal life came to a standstill in Assam following the strike. In many places, protestors clashed with the police while opposing the Bill. Effigies of Sonowal, Modi and other BJP-AGP leaders were brunt across the state. Nude protests opposing the Bill were also staged.

The Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and Cotton University have postponed all examinations scheduled for December 10th, 2019 as the North East Students’ Organisation called for a ‘Northeast Bandh’ tomorrow.

The students of the Cotton University burnt the copies of the Bill and slammed the BJP-led central government for bringing in the Bill.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened across the state. The Assam Police has launched WhatsApp helpline number (9132699735) for complaints related to hate or fake messages related to the controversial Bill.

The Bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to the people belonging to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis who have become the victims of religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan and entered India on or before December 31st, 2014.

The agitators said that the Bill nullifies the historic Assam Accord which has fixed March 24th, 1971 as the cut-off to identify illegal foreigners. 

Assam Chief Minister Sonowal, who has been accused of maintaining silence over the Bill, took to Twitter and said that a section has maligned the image of the state by spreading misinformation that only Assam will have to again bear the burden of illegal immigrants. In a series of tweets, he said the BJP government is committed to fighting for the people of Assam.

The government exempted the Inner Line Permit areas in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh and the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura (Mizoram too has Sixth Schedule areas) in the Northeast region from the ambit of the Bill.

Photo: Time8