The issues and narratives of Assam on various matters in different platforms have always been a lonely path. Matters relating to the development of the state to the socio-political issues, Assam’s voice seemed unheard in the national capital since a very long time.
The recent news of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) stirred the entire state where people from all walks of life including the people working with the government agencies, came out and stood as one against the Bill. While the country was sleeping in slumber when the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was implemented in the state, Assam welcomed it with opened arms expecting a positive change in its long going battle against illegal immigrants, irrespective of any religion. However, this was not the case during the time when the CAB was initiated.
The six long years of struggle during the late 70s and the signing of the Assam Accord (1985) which partially brought in a period of peace and consolation to the Assamese society, the CAB totally dismissed the very foundation of the trust that was built between the Central Government and the people of Assam.
The CAB was negating the Assam Accord that led the people to believe that a good time for Assam would not come soon. The Assam Accord granted citizenship to foreigners who entered Assam before the 25th of March 1971. However, in the proposed CAB and now the Act, December 2014 has been mentioned as the cutoff date. The duration of residency of the immigrants has also been reduced from 11 years to 5 years under the Amended Act.
Had it not been for the aware and alert people of Assam, the movement would not have gained the momentum as it did in the first few days of CAB. Assam as we all saw and knew was burning. Several injuries and innocent lives were lost in the brutal counter actions by the police force to quell the movement. What was initiated in Assam, spread quickly to the other states of the country. And we suddenly began feeling for the first time ever that the country stood with us.
Sea of people protested in various states of the country that created chaos and lawlessness in India. International agencies such as the United Nations, various groups in foreign lands began showing their worry and support towards this movement.
As time went by, the passage of CAB gave way to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and slowly the focus and the narrative of Assam was diluted and once again not given any heed by various concerned agencies of the country.
Assam stands for a pluralistic state like that of India. The fight for a united diversity, safeguarding and securing its resources for its diverse members of the state is a totally different narrative from that of the other states. The divisive politics has garnered more attention, which is rightfully so, however, where do the long-standing problems of Assam stand in this narrative? Has anyone ever thought? How long will Assam fight this lonely battle? When will anybody include Assam’s narrative with their recent ongoing struggle? Is it because Northeast rejects any kind of discriminatory idea that is not in sync with any kind of political party or intellectuals that they have not garnered the support that they should have?
These issues of the region can never be understood without understanding the essence of the Northeast. It is very simple – Northeast is the replica of the very idea of India that our forefathers believed in.
Various tribes, communities and religious people who have stood together as one irrespective of the different language and culture – Eid, Bihu, Christmas, are just a few celebrations that would bring together the people of the region, irrespective of their different faiths and beliefs. The region celebrates every festival with high spirits without the discrimination of any. Are the people or the various political groups belonging to a set of ideology scared of this unity because there is no scope to fulfil their interest in this place with such beautiful minds?
The Hindu-Muslim divisive politics or any other identity politics doesn’t stand a chance in this beautiful part of the country and the people of Assam has been struggling to safeguard this very culture which is egalitarian in nature and it is time for mainstream India and its concerned and true citizens to recognize this beautiful and unique characteristic of the State and build a new India. It is time for all of us to take interest in this part of the country which is very much a part of India and more so a reflection of true India that we once believed in.
Entire Assam has been Shaheen Bagh for more than a month and no one cares!
The author is the Deputy Editor of TIME8. The views expressed by the author are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8.