“This National Awakening Goes Beyond AntiCAA”: Akhil Gogoi

The article, translated from Axomiya by Biswajit K Bora, is a formal write-up of what Akhil Gogoi had verbally communicated to his comrades of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, when he was in Jorhat Central Jail.

The extraordinary mass awakening erupted in Assam after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 had been introduced in the Lok Sabha on 9 December 2019 is hitherto unseen in the history of the state. We are at a loss whether to term it a mass movement or a mass protest! It is certain that it is a phenomenon that would shake Assam’s social life. Everyone would agree that it is a historic eruption in the life of the Assamese nationality. But no matter how massive this mass protest is, this mass movement by the people would not be able to achieve its goal unless it is given a rational direction. Therefore we are trying to propose a blueprint to carry forward this movement, so that the biggest political phenomenon that we have ever seen in our lifetime does not become a nine day wonder.

As soon as the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 10 December 2019, people all over Assam spontaneously took to the streets. The people brought Assam’s administrative system to an abrupt halt. No sooner had the Bill been passed in the Rajya Sabha and made into an act on 11 December, the mass protest became much more aggressive and uncontrollable. The national highways were blocked, rail lines were blocked, and works in the Central Government or the State Government offices were brought to a complete halt. Even commercial institutions were automatically and unsurprisingly closed, and the state economy was brought to a halt too. All these did not take place under any party or organisation’s leadership or direction – it was the people of Assam who were at the forefront.

In order to achieve the rational goal of this movement against the CAB (now the CAA), we must learn from the mass movement led by the people of Assam all over the state, from 9 December onward. The revolutionary potential of this mass movement or the mass protest lies in its core. Our key observations are listed below:

  1. This is an expression of the people of Assam’s collective indignation. There is no party politics, no organisational interest – the movement is driven by an earnest eagerness to resolve the problems. It is very pertinent to keep these in mind for a successful conclusion of this movement against the CAA.
  2. The strategy and tactics of this spontaneous movement were right. What it means is that for their true love for their nation, whatever collective action everyone spontaneously participating in the movement has taken is the righteous action for a righteous movement. There are no traditional protest demonstrations or hunger strikes – this movement is carried forward by tactics to bring the administration to a halt in order to compel the Indian state to take notice. Therefore, these tactics should be used to lead this movement to a successful conclusion.
  3. It has gushed out the obstacles to a unified movement that had long been a discourse in Assam. It had obliterated organisational arrogance. The people of Assam have taken leadership of this movement and all organisations and their leadership have rightly been compelled to take part in this historic mass movement.
  4. When the movement has continued to grow, the government has become active again. Every possible measure has been taken to make the movement dwindle to nothing. Against such a backdrop, we want to propose the following future plans of action to the people of Assam:a) In order to arrive at an effective outcome, the movement would have to be continued for a long time, without resorting to violence at any moment.

    b)This movement would have to able to cut off the ruling party and their stakeholders from the masses for their actions against the interest of the people of Assam.

The success or failure of the movement would be determined by an ability to create a strategy to carry out the above-mentioned tasks with mass participation. In order to be able to sustain for a long time, the movement must have three characteristics –
a) massive participation of the people,
b) democratic direction of the movement,
c) peaceful yet non-negotiable movement.

What the movement must achieve:

This movement is not only against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, it has also given expression to the long standing indignation of the people of Assam and their sense of betrayal by the Indian state. It is a display of strength against the fascist Indian state. Therefore, what the movement seeks must not be a resolution against the fascist imposition of the CAA. Along with the scrapping of the CAA, we must realise our long standing demands, resolve the long standing problems of Assam. Hence, what the movement must achieve are:

  1. The question of Indian citizenship in Assam must be resolved once and for all. A “non obstante clause” must be added to Article 11 of the Constitution of India so that the Parliament of India cannot take a decision regarding Indian citizenship in Assam without prior approval by the Assam Assembly.
  2. A “non obstante clause” must be added to Article 347 of the Constitution of India regarding the state language of Assam so that whatever decision the Parliament of India takes concerning the state language of other states within the Union of India, Assamese will always be the state language in Assam while each and every indigenous language will be given due recognition.
  3. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 must be scrapped in toto. In addition, there must be a provision of Inner Line Permit for the state of Assam.
  4. The state of Assam must be given special status as per the Constitution of India. This is what we may also term as “constitutional safeguard”. The provisions under Article 370 1(A) to Article 371 (J) must be extended to Assam. As it is the case in Nagaland, the indigenous people of Assam must be given rights to land and resources under Article 370 1(A). As it is the case in Sikkim, seats must be reserved for the indigenous people of Assam in Panchayats, municipality corporations, Assembly and the Lok Sabha. Seats must be reserved for the indigenous people of Assam in educational institutions. Central government and state government as well as private jobs must be reserved for the indigenous people of Assam.
  5. A legislative council where all the ethnic groups are equally represented must be formed to ensure equal status and equal rights of all the indigenous ethnic groups in Assam.
  6. There must be special provisions to safeguard the heritage, language, literature, culture and tradition of all the ethnic groups in Assam.
  7. Land reform must be carried out in Assam to ensure that each and every local farmer in Assam is given agricultural land along with complete irrigation facilities in every plot so that substantial transformation could be brought about in the agricultural sector in Assam.
  8. Traditional industries as well as other handicraft industries must be built and developed in all the villages of Assam to ensure complete employment of all the youths in Assam as well as to bring back those youths home who are currently working in other states.

This movement would effectively be a failure if the mass awakening against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is not directed toward such a successful conclusion. In such a scenario, possibilities of such mass movements in the future would also remain.

 

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Akhil Gogoi Written by:

Akhil Gogoi is the leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) a peasant organisation based in Assam

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