A Letter to India from a Student Protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act in Assam

I request the country and each northeasterner across the globe to support us in this cause, spread the word and let not forces suppress our rights, freedom and identity.

Dear India,

The much debated and controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been turned into an Act now. It poses as a threat to the indigenous people of Assam, their identity, culture and economy and the democracy of the country. There have been several protests across the state since the onset of December, which escalated on December 11. The student community has been actively involved in the protests, whether it is the march till the Assam Secretariat or other non-violent protests being organised across the state.

The peaceful rallies, however, saw police resorting to lathi charge and tear gas. Several students were hurt, irrespective of gender, and many were arrested by the police. Third party and government-sponsored miscreants and mob provoked violence and vandalism, which deteriorated the situation and also affected the cause and efforts that went into organising the peaceful protest marches. Functioning of the entire state came to a standstill, with an indefinite curfew imposed and a ban on the internet.

Also read: How Five People in Assam Were Killed During Anti-Citizenship Amendment Protests

Paramilitary troops were placed across the streets, warning every household to not step out, which restricted the mobility of everyone in the state. These sudden turn of events caused havoc, with many of us stranded at different locations with an acute food shortage. We, however, decided to break the curfew and gathered peacefully at the largest playground in Guwahati. Thousands of people of different age groups, religious and linguistic identities joined us in raising our voice against the government and the CAA.

Soon there were incidents of open firings and rubber bullet shots. Media channels in Assam were clamped down upon. Many Assamese police officials were replaced by officers from outside to take action in the state. Six young boys and girls from different religious communities, who had walked out of the house to support the peaceful protest rally, were killed in police firing. Colleges and universities were threatened by the police, who used fired in the air. There was a food shortage in hostels and educational institutions, banks and markets were shut for days. We had to suffer a severe crisis in our region. This, supplemented by firings and the violence inflicted, shows the authorities’ persistent attempts to instil fear in us.

The family of Sam Stafford, shot dead by the police during anti-CAA protests, mourns his death at a tribute ceremony in Hatigaon, Guwahati. Photo: PTI

The ban on the internet as a threat to law and order was the final act of suppression that cut off all communication with the outside world. Several incidents of lathi-charge and provocation by the police were therefore overlooked and we could not communicate our plight to the outside world.

As I write this letter highlighting our plight, let me assure you that our (the entire state of Assam) spirit is not broken. Over a thousand of us participated in hunger strikes and rallies, maintaining the momentum. We have started a satyagraha and will continue our fight, non-violently, peacefully and yet firmly on removing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Also read: Six Assamese Activists to Challenge Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Supreme Court

As I write this on behalf of the entire student community of the Northeast, I request the country and each northeasterner across the globe to support us in this cause, spread the word and let not forces suppress our rights, freedom and identity. And to the power-holders we ask this question, “What lies in the future for the youth of India?

Joi Aai Axom!

Preetam Barkataky
Cotton College, Guwahati University