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Citizenship Bill Row: 1983 to be repeated in Assam?

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Guwahati, December 5, 2019:

With the fire to protect the Assamese soil from illegal foreigners once again burning brightly within the sons and daughters of Assam, the region could be possibly spiraling towards yet another Assam Agitation-like situation.

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The sentiment that has gripped the people recalls the bloody Assam Agitation, which left as many as 855 ‘sons of the soil’ martyred. The players from the Agitation, such as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), have once again entered the battlefield with renewed zeal to safeguard the land from alleged Bangladeshi ‘infiltrators’.

The AASU’s General Secretary has also warned that the simmering tensions might come to a head in the coming times, and history might repeat itself. Lurin says that it is a question of “identity”, and the Assamese culture has already been marginalized. “Our culture, civilization, and political rights are under threat due to the influx, and we have the right to self determination.”

On, 18 February 1983, the tensions between the indigenous and the ‘outsiders’ reached fever pitch after 2,191 ‘foreigners’ were massacred by a mob. The violence that took place in Nellie by Assamese was seen as a fallout of the decision to hold the controversial state elections in 1983 in the midst of the Assam Agitation, after Indira Gandhi’s decision to give 4 million immigrants from Bangladesh the right to vote.

A song sung by the great bard, Bhupen Hazarika, sums up the sentiment of the era perfectly, and it is perhaps necessary to revisit it, with the state seemingly plunging towards a similar crisis.

The song, ‘Juye Pura Tirasir’ (Burning 1983), recalls the volatile situation in Assam during the time of the Assam Agitation (1979-1983). Recounting the horrors of the struggle, Hazarika, in the song, laments the disappearance of his brother (“mur bhaiti nuhua hol, nepalu khobor toi jaano ne khobor” — my bother has been lost, no trace, do you know where he is?”).

Hazarika further exhorts anyone with any information about his brother to bring him back. Hazarika goes on to add that his brother had dreams of building a nation, to bring peace and prosperity and development to his motherland, Assam sings the bard, adding “he yelled why others should come here, yet he was lost.”

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Then, Hazarika goes on to sing: “One day demons surrounded us, Shot us by the shores of the Luit (Brahmaputra), Many bodies went floating by the river, With me was Rongpi, Pegu, Gogoi, Basumatary Rohim…Chettri, Tiwari, Harbansh was a follower of the great guru Tegh Bahadur, The demon took all of them away, O’ have you heard about it?”

Bhupenda sang about a world bound together by that infinite ocean that we call humanity, and this song in particular shall remain etched in the minds of the Assamese as one that truly encapsulates the spirit of those uncertain times.

This song about the horrors of rebellion and its impact on the worst sufferers — the family of those whose spirit and love for motherland leads them down the perilous path of rebellion. Come 2019, the spirit of rebellion is being re-lived in Assam yet again, with thousands of agitators swarming the streets shouting slogans and waving banners.

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