GUWAHATI: Though violence has ceased, protests continued to take place in Assam against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for the last two weeks. People in the thousands continue to take to the the roads and open fields to express their opposition to the CAA that expedites citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The act has been vehemently opposed in Assam and the northeast areas ever since it was introduced.

Opposition to the act here is different than the rest of the country. People here are opposing the act not because Muslims are not included. Here, it is because people are not ready to accept any foreigner who came here after 1971 irrespective of religion, language, caste or creed.

With the rest of the NE states exempted from the purview of the CAA because of the Inner Line Permit (ILP), the protest is mainly focused in Assam and Tripura as of now. Though the protest has receded in other states, they also continue to oppose the bill.

The ILP is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period. Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, and recently Manipur are protected by the ILP. Meghalaya is also exempt as it is protected by the Sixth Schedule.

Assam has witnessed a long history of movements against immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh. The All Assam Students Union (AASU), an influential students’ body spearheaded a six-year long agitation in the 1980s known as the Assam Agitation to drive out undocumented immigrants. More than 855 people lost their lives during the movements and are remembered as martyrs of the Assam agitation.

Following that, the famous Assam Accord was signed in 1985 with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. According to the Assam Accord the cut off date to detect foreigners who entered India illegally is March 24, 1971. This cut off date has been widely accepted by people and social, political organisations in Assam.

“We have nothing to do with religion. It’s about our identity, culture and language. We will not accept this act which allows migrants from Bangladesh to settle down here. Our agitation will continue till the government revokes it,” said AASU chief adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya.

Now with the CAA, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan or Pakistan who came to India before December 31, 2014 will be eligible to apply for citizenship.

Besides AASU, hundreds of organisations and individuals have been staging protests in various ways against the Act. Police firing has so far taken five lives across the state.

Many organisations and political parties have questioned the role of the police in this regard. The opposition Congress has demanded a high level judicial inquiry in these firing incidents.

Artists from the state too have taken to the streets, demonstrating in their own way by singing protest songs. They were joined by thousands in several places including the state capital Guwahati.

Popular musician Zubeen Garg, who has been vocal against the CAA, has also hinted at having an alternative regional force after the BJP deceived the people of the state.

“BJP gave us hope but they too deceived us. It seems that now no one understands the sentiment of Assamese people. But we will continue fighting for the cause. If needed, we have to think for a new alternative in the state,” Zubeen said during a rally.

After this, many in Assam have reiterated the old demand of having the ILP in Assam as well. The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), another students’ body has demanded that the state should also be covered with the ILP so that the CAA is not implemented here.

Activists arrests

RTI activist and peasants’ leader Akhil Gogoi has been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for allegedly having a nexus with Maoist groups. He is also one of the major voices to oppose the CAA.

Gogoi was arrested by the NIA under several sections of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. After taking him into custody for 10 days on December 17, the NIA flew him to New Delhi the next day. Before being arrested by the NIA, Gogoi was arrested by state police in Jorhat on December 12 during a protest against the CAA, reportedly as a preventive measure.

Sarbananda Sonowal’s assurance

Though Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal is trying his best to adopt damage control measures by assuring people that the language and culture of Assam's indigenous people will be protected, these assurances have by and large not been accepted.

The government lifted its ban on the internet on December 20 after 10 days. People have since taken to social media in number to slam the government for deceiving the people.