Guwahati: Even as the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) agitation is believed to have lost momentum in Assam, anti-CAA organisations along with ethnic groups, peasant and students’ organisations took to the streets across multiple districts in Assam on March 11 to press their demands for the immediate release of jailed peasant leader Akhil Gogoi and other anti-CAA protesters, for better medical treatment of Gogoi and the scrapping of the CAA.
Hundreds of protesters were seen gathering at street corners, open-air venues and some were even staging a sit-in in front of the local deputy commissioner’s office. Under the aegis of groups like CAA Birodhi Satra Samaj, Sanmilita Sangram Parishad, Nagarikatwa Aain Songsudhan Birodhi Mancha and others, participants from Gauhati and Dibrugarh Universities also took part in the mass protest demanding that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led-state government to stop and put an end to ‘the repressive’ measures that have been meted out to anti-CAA protesters.
The state-wide simultaneous protests were reported from districts such as Sivasagar, Dhubri, Kamrup (both metro and rural), Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Golaghat, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Karbi Anglong, Barpeta, Goalpara, Tinsukia, Nagaon, Dhemaji and others. Protests were also reported from pockets in Rangiya, Biswanath Chariali, Chabua and others in both upper and lower Assam.
Student groups like the All India Students’ Association (AISA), Students Federation of India (SFI), Satra Mukti Sangram Samiti, which is the student-wing of the peasant organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), and others were also at the protests.
AISA state-president Subrat Talukdar told The Wire, “There were critics who pointed out that the anti-CAA agitation has lost its steam. But on Wednesday, the BJP saw how hundreds of people across the length and breadth of Assam took to the streets and demanded the immediate release of Akhil Gogoi.”
“There is deep resentment among the people of Assam against CAA. It is true that the agitation, which was so vocal in December and January, had slowed down a bit, but it was never over. I doubt that a few leaders who were quite vocal at first have now been compromised. The agitation against CAA will continue and people will come out to protest,” Talukdar added.
In Guwahati, hundreds took to the arterial Guwahati Club Rotary where the protesters staged a sit-in. Also seen at the protest was former Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader and currently a spokesperson for the Congress, Kamal Medhi.
While speaking to the media, Medhi said, “The arrest of certain anti-CAA protesters by the BJP led state government is an attempt to stifle the voice of the people of Assam who have been raising their concerns over CAA. This is quite fascist in nature and in attitude. Assam is with Akhil Gogoi and the BJP is selective in arresting him and other leaders. False charges have been framed against them.”
Gogoi, who has been lodged in jail since December 12 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on charges of being a ‘Maoist’ brought in by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), was reportedly unwell with many health-related afflictions.
Both the KMSS and civil society members have been asking the state government to provide Gogoi with better medical treatment. Also lodged in jail are KMSS leaders and anti-CAA protesters Bitu Sonowal, Dhajjya Konwar and Manash Konwar on charges under the UAPA.
The Telegraph on Thursday quoted senior journalist and a vocal anti-CAA activist Manjit Mahanta who alleged that Gogoi was ‘slowly being poisoned’ inside the jail.
During Wednesday’s protest, he lashed out against the BJP for being ‘inhumane and subjecting Gogoi to mental and physical torture.’
“He is being given slow poison. But the BJP can neither silence Akhil nor suppress the voices of the people of Assam. Our movement against the imposed law will continue unless the CAA is scrapped,” Telegraph reported.
The state’s various anti-CAA organisations and groups have called for an anti-CAA unity meeting on March 26.