The CAA Fallout: Who rose to Prominence and fell from Grace in 2019?
2019 will be marked as a year of gains and losses on the political landscape which made many prominent leaders come out and shine among the citizens of Assam, while a few of them had to bite the dust as far as their popularity was concerned as they could not match up to the expectations of the masses. Such was the turn of events during 2019.
G Plus tried to filter out a few names of the leaders who may have gained amidst the much hyped Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
All Assam Students’ Union or AASU’s General Secretary, Lurinjyoti Gogoi has been vocal with regard to the student body’s stand on CAA.
AASU headed by Lurinjyoti Gogoi began intensifying the agitation programme against inclusion of illegal immigrants through the controversial Act and started facilitating the participation of all sections of people.
Gogoi, who hails from Dibrugarh, is continuing with the protest against the CAA and being the voice of the voiceless that has emanated from the mass turmoil in Assam with the passage of the Bill into an Act.
Gogoi said that the indigenous people of Assam will not live as second-class citizens. “The Centre has forcefully imposed the CAA on Assam without the consent of its people. Anti-CAA protests will continue till the law is scrapped.”
It is to be mentioned that AASU is best known for leading the six-year Assam Movement against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Samujjal Bhattacharya, the Chief Advisor of AASU, which spearheaded anti-CAA movement in Assam, rose to greater popularity since January 2019 when the then Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha.
In protest against the CAA, Bhattacharya said, “Those leaders who’ve disrupted peace in the state are now taking out peace processions in the state. Who has created the current unrest in the state? The fire of CAA burns the heart of every Assamese. We need to give them a befitting reply. We can do so by protesting in a peaceful and well-disciplined manner. The AASU is an organization without any commander. The suggestions and support it garners from the people make it powerful. If the government really wants to douse the fire burning in the hearts of the Assamese, it can do so just by cancelling the CAA. Peace will be restored in the state on its own.”
Meanwhile, the AASU, which is leading the agitation against the amended citizenship act, and various locals have been describing those killed during the agitation as "martyrs."
Earlier in 2005, Bhattacharya formed an organisation named “Asom Sena” - a vigilante wing of All Assam Students’ Union in Assam with the Shiv Sena as its role model for the cause of social justice and reformation of the indigenous people of and within the state.
Although, its chief organizer is Lakshman Das and convener is Niranjan Nath, the prime architect of the outfit is Samujjal Bhattacharya, a long time advisor to AASU.
According to Samujjal Bhattacharya, "The Asom Sena will function as a front of the AASU and Asom Unnati Sabha. The deprivation of local youths in matters of appointment in various departments of the governments both in New Delhi and Dispur (Guwahati) will be a major issue to be taken up by Asom Sena. The volunteers of Asom Sena will never pursue violent activities and remain as a non-political group though it may adopt a radical stand if needed on the issues of regional interests."
The peasant leader and RTI activist, Akhil Gogoi, came into national attention after he was awarded the Shanmugam Manjunath Integrity Award in 2008 for his fight against corruption.
Gogoi attended Cotton College and served as the general secretary of the college students’ union. Soon, he joined the United Revolutionary Movement Council of Assam (URMCA), a mass organisation of CPI-ML-PCC under the leadership of naxalite leader Santosh Rana. However, by the end of the 1990s, he broke off with Rana and devoted himself as an editor of Natun Padatik, an independent Marxist journal published in Assamese, along with Dr Hiren Gohain.
Later in 2005, Akhil Gogoi formed Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) which works on a diverse range of issues from public distribution system (PDS) thefts, non-implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), land rights, governmental and corporate corruption, Right to Information Act (RTI) and construction of big dams in fragile seismic territories of northeast India.
Currently, following the CAA outbreak, the peasant leader was vocal against the BJP-led state and Centre government for the implementation of CAA. Although Gogoi started the protest in a peaceful manner in Jorhat along with its members and citizen, the state government arrested him.
The NIA alleged that Gogoi merged KMSS with Revolutionary Communist Centre (RCC) in 2009 and has involvement with the Maoists. Gogoi was taken into 10 days’ NIA custody and is currently in judicial custody for 14 days awarded by a special court here in Guwahati.
It is to be mentioned that Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti is one of the most powerful organisations of present day Assam.
With the highs there are also the lows for a few of the politicians in 2019. Some of the leaders who were loved by the masses had a major slip when it came to harbouring expectations from them.
Himanta Biswa Sarma
From being a former close aide of Tarun Gogoi and now second in charge of Assam's BJP government, Assam State Finance Minster and North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) Convener, Himanta Biswa Sarma had a topsy-turvy year 2019 when it came to citizens’ verdict.
The “Son of the Soil” Himanta Biswa became a popular politician from the days he was in the Congress regime and later separated to join Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to fulfil the people’s mandate. Of late here has had to bear a lot of criticism.
Himanta Biswa, the most vocal supporter of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Assam, is now part of several peaceful rallies that are trying to educate people on the virtues of CAA.
In a rally in Barpeta, Sarma said, “Those leading the anti-CAA protests are spreading misinformation that crores of Bangladeshis will come to Assam from Bangladesh and get citizenship under the Act. Some are claiming that 1.2 crore will come while others are saying 2.5 crore people will come. But there is no such Hindu population in Bangladesh. A maximum of four lakh people will apply for citizenship through CAA. The number will not go beyond that. But those opposed to CAA are spreading rumours.”
Sarma, who is considered the chief architect of BJP's success in Assam, was looked upon by the citizens as a politician who can bring in revolution in terms of opportunity and social security. However, a section of the people including local organisations is considering the CAA to be against the people’s mandate and that it should not have been done.
In May 2016, Sarma won from the Jalukbari constituency for the fourth consecutive term to become MLA again and was sworn in as Cabinet Minister on 24th May. He has been allotted portfolios like Finance, Health & Family Welfare, Education, Planning & Development, Tourism, Pension & Public Grievances.
Embraced by the citizens of the state as the “Jatiya Nayak,” (Leader of the Community) Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is on the brink of political disaster for what is being termed as “betrayal.”
CM Sonowal’s failure either to prevent the passing of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 — that allows Indian citizenship for non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — in the Parliament or to mark any significant protest against it has been viewed by many as an act of betrayal of the people who voted him to power.
Having served as the president of the All Assam Students' Union which he had held from 1992-99, CM Sonowal’s ideology faded away after joining active politics.
The Jatiya Nayak, a title that was lovingly accorded to him by the Assamese society for being the petitioner in the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983 (IMDT Act) case that was struck down by the Supreme Court on 12th July, 2005, the rise and fall of his esteem in the public eye has been mercurial.
BJP ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader, Atul Bora who once stood for the people of Assam and promised to protect the indigenous people of Assam has also fallen heavily in the eyes of the people of Assam.
Earlier in January 2019, when the CAA was first tabled in Lok sabha, AGP had snapped ties with the BJP over ideological differences.
Speaking to media Bora had said, "We made a last ditch attempt today to convince the Centre not to pass the Bill. But Singh told us clearly that it will be passed in Lok Sabha tomorrow. After this, there is no question of remaining in the alliance."
Although Agriculture Minister and Asom Gana Parishad chief Atul Bora, Water Resources Minister Keshav Mahanta and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Phanibhushan Choudhury had submitted their resignations to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at the state secretariat in Assam capital Guwahati, later Bora said the AGP takes its decisions based on its “ideologies” and the renewal alliance with the BJP was taken considering the “changing circumstances.”
The AGP has been facing flak from various sections after renewing its alliance with the BJP, though the latter has not changed its stance on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and said that they will fight in the Apex Court.