A month on, new songs and poems keep anti-CAA protests in Assam kicking
It’s been a month since Assam erupted in protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
But the stir, fuelled by fear among Assamese that the legislation would encourage the flow of illegal immigrants to the region and hurt the culture, language and identity of indigenous people, has not abated one bit.
Apart from the demonstrations, marches, hunger strikes and torch rallies by organisations leading the protests, songs, poems and more are keeping the masses inspired.
Slogans like ‘Joi Aai Asom’ (Glory to Mother Assam) and ‘Aah Oi Aah, Ulai Aah’ (Come Out, Come Out All), which galvanised the masses during the 1979-1985 agitation against foreigners, and songs and poems of Assam’s cultural icons Bhupen Hazarika, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala and Bishnu Rabha are echoing again.
The state is also witnessing a number of new songs and a few poems with anti-CAA lyrics and urging Assamese to protest against the legislation, which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
“When something touches the heart of creative people it leads them to express it in their own way through their medium. Right now due to Centre imposing CAA despite people’s protests, Assam is seeing such creative outburst,” said eminent writer and Padma Shri winner Eli Ahmed.
The 85-year-old, who vehemently opposes CAA, had written poems opposing illegal immigrants during the 1979-85 agitation and sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 urging him not to enact the legislation.
While the protests against CAA in the rest of the country is against the exclusion of Muslims, in Assam and rest of the northeast protesters are seeking repeal of the legislation and wants all foreigners, irrespective of their religion, to be kept out.
While organisations like All Assam Students Union (AASU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) are spearheading the anti-CAA stir, singers, actors and writers are also actively involved in the peaceful protests.
In the past month, the songs and poems are getting performed and recited and also widely circulated in social media platforms.
“When we see what is happening in Assam due to the influx of illegal immigrants, we feel the need to highlight it and oppose it. People of Assam don’t want CAA and that’s why I have written songs against it,” said popular singer-composer Bipin Chawdang.
Several of his songs like ‘Nagorikotwo Songsudhoni Bidheyok khon nelage’ (We don’t want CAA) and ‘Jatir maatir gaan’ (Song of my people and land) are a rage among anti-CAA protesters and Chawdang is busy touring the state performing them at protest programmes.
“During the Assam Agitation of the 80s, whenever Bhupen Hazarika’s song ‘Aah aah ulai aah, sojag jonota (Come out, come out, O alert masses) was played, it inspired people to come out to the streets. It seems we have been able to do something similar this time,” said singer-composer Manas Robin.
His song ‘Badane Anile Maan’ comparing the move to provide citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis (among others) through CAA to the 19th-century invasions of Assam by the Burmese army with the aid of Badan Chandra Barphukan, a leading Ahom chief who betrayed the Ahom kingdom, is a regular feature in most protest demonstrations.
Along with songs, anti-CAA poems are also being written. One prominent among them titled ‘Aah oi aah, ulai aah’ (Come out, come out all) by Pranab Kumar Barman exhorting people to come out to save their land and language is being widely recited and circulated.
“Assamese are very creative people and many events in our history are found mentioned in songs, poems and other mediums. This was seen during the Assam Agitation and we are witnessing it again,” said Banani Chakravarty, professor of Assamese in Gauhati University.
“Most songs and poems opposing CAA, which have been composed in recent weeks and are doing the rounds, are spontaneous creations. I feel songs have a more powerful impact and help in connecting the common masses better than speeches,” she added.
Following the Centre’s decision to bring CAA into force from Friday, organisations in Assam have decided to intensify protests. Speculation on forming a new political party by uniting all anti-CAA bodies is also gaining momentum.