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“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end”~ Bayard Rustin

For people outside Barak Valley, it is much easier to give their opinion on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, whereas those who are living in the Barak Valley region or in the Bengali regions of Brahmaputra Valley, it’s tougher to the same extent to decide anything about the impact of Citizenship Amendment Bill because one decision can be false too.

The bill has taken over the seven sisters and it is leading to wide anger from various communities. Many are supporting it to the last extent whereas even more number of people are protesting against it by even giving a decision that if the bill is passed then they would either go for self immolation or they would fight for an independent state. Recently, after Assam, CAB just took over whole Mizoram as many Mizos started protesting against the Bill since it would grant citizenship to many Chakma citizens who they claim as “illegal immigrants”.

In Assam, the scenario is far more complex since it has established various angles because of different ideologies running in a nonsense manner without even thinking that what the bill suggests and what can be its impact. However, those who protest against it from a racist perspective are far worse than the human rights activist, because the former discriminates one community as an illegal community while the latter fights for every community. The complexity, however, cannot be seen because either some are blindly believing it because of communal love whereas another community (Assamese Community) protests for the growing impatience and intolerance against another community which is the minority community.

THE HISTORY OF THE OPPRESSION

Has the nation ever asked the Bengalis of Barak Valley, Assam, about what we feel about the word ‘freedom’? No. If you ask us about this very word, we would simply call it a pigeon’s flight. To us, freedom has never been a part and parcel of our soul rather we were deliberately imprisoned by the masters of this national politics to suppress our culture and voice. Today, even after the implementation of unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Bill no one bothers to focus on our history. If the nation would have read about our history, then they would have felt our oppressed soul. With deaths multiplying it is high time to remember the day when we were forced to join Assam and with it came a properly planned imprisonment.

To understand the barbaric history, you need to go back to the time of partition of Assam. Shocked? Don’t be. It is true that the nation always talks of two partitions as the major partitions of India, but no, right at that very moment, Assam was also divided on the basis of religion and language. The only difference here lies is that this partition was of the interest of British, East Bengal as well as Assam (or the Assamese). In this partition, the Bengalis of Southern Assam faced the catastrophe in the highest level. 1930, the year in which the sword was first struck over the process of partition where an Assamese politician, passed a resolution in which he demanded to rename the undivided state of Assam since the state is having a majority of Bengali people as compared to the Assamese population. It initiated because the region of Sylhet was transferred by the British from Bengal to Assam in 1874 making the state full of Bengali people who spoke in Sylheti.

All of the acts of the British made the discriminatory Assamese people more active to evacuate the Bengalis of Assam by dividing Sylhet back to East Bengal, so that the state stays for the Assamese although Bengalis lived in Assam for more than a thousand years. The Assam Pradesh Congress were so discriminatory that they never wanted any Bengali to stay in Assam since we may destroy their homogeneity. In 1945, the party released a manifesto to brainwash the brains of all the Assamese so that they can protest against the Bengalis of Assam.

Then came the year of 1946, in which Gopinath Bordoloi, the then Prime Minister of Assam started the politics to throw the Sylhet district away from Assam caging the few Bengalis of Southern Assam. For the manifesto, the Sylhet district was finally handed over to East Bengal in which the division took place on the basis of religion. In the voting system, Sylhet got divided because the Muslim majority wanted to join the East Pakistan. The politics of this partition when the Assamese, British and the Muslim league voted for the same partition of Sylhet district, since the Assamese wanted their homogeneity, British had the notion of dividing the nation before leaving India while the Muslim League wanted to have all the Muslim majority of Sylhet to build power.

But among all of the acts, the people who suffered were the original Bengalis of Southern Assam since Sylhet got divided making Assam more linguistically dominant and from history, we can understand that the Assamese have dominated over the Bengalis. Partition was done in such a manner that the region of Southern Assam with Karimganj, Silchar etc., became completely isolated since right after that East Bengal was divided to give rise to another nation named Bangladesh. So, if we notice the demography then we can very clearly understand that it was a deliberate step by three communities to suppress the Bengalis. It has always been said that in the partition the Assamese parties stayed silent and that is a clear indication of their discriminatory demand.

After Sylhet got divided, it became clear that the Bengalis had nothing for them because the state is of the Assamese and the government would favour their demands and needs, and it can be seen and felt even today. The time saw huge communal riots on the basis of religion and language killing more than lakhs of people. Rebels fought to save Bengali language while others fought against the Muslim. All of these started for that one manifesto of the Gopinath Bordoloi. After that Hindu Bengalis started migrating from Bangladesh since it became tough for them to live in a Muslim majority country at the time of communal warfare. Today the Citizenship Amendment Bill, works unconstitutionally against these Bengalis who were forced to leave Bangladesh for the communal riots.

Today if you visit Southern Assam, you would find the lack of communication, little exposure and no industry to sustain the economy of this region and all of it happened for the linguistically dominant but discriminatory Assamese politicians. Southern Assam today has Bangladesh in its South with other states blocking its path making the transport facility dormant. Once the region had the highest import – export facility since the then East Bengal helped us to export goods to other countries as well as to other regions of India. Today it hardly gets any medium to connect this region to other parts of India. It is joined to Sikkim by a small road which today has been blocked by numerous check posts. So, after all of this freedom for us is just a bread which hangs above our head while our hands are tied backwards.

If you ask us, how well do we see our culture getting caged, then we would say, it is on the doomsday since, the culture is the sole thing where oppressed could speak of their sufferings! With the dominance of the Assamese, suppression of the Bengali language started in Assam. People won’t tell you because they have to live here but it is the truth because it is quite obvious from the history. If you read “Prothom Alo” (First Light) by Sunil Gangopadhyay, then you could clearly see that the culture of one region had to connect with the culture of another region to survive. Before partition of Assam and Bengal, the Bengalis of Assam had the most effective spread of culture since the Sylheti people had an easy connection with the Bengalis of Assam and West Bengal. This blend gave us some of the most brilliant novels, poems and plays but after the partition we lost everything.

Today if you watch a reality show, you could clearly see that one who goes from Assam has to represent the culture of Assamese and the rest of the India knows even the Bengalis of Assam using the culture of the Assamese, for example, Bihu isn’t the festival of the Bengalis of Assam but the rest of the India knows that it is our festival. People of upper Assam hardly like to talk in Bengali even after they come to Southern Assam but they force the Bengalis of Assam to talk in their language after we go to upper Assam. Quite discriminatory! Interestingly, few people know that Bengalis live in Assam. So, it is quite clear that from 1874, the Assamese majority along with others have always tried to suppress the Bengalis by partitioning the state on the basis of language and then seizing the Bengali community from having any communication to the rest of the India. Unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Bill, is yet another tool of the Assamese and right wing government to suppress the Bengali community. Detention camps are a clear proof of how they want to suppress the people. It is time for the rest of India to grow up and please have a look over us. We belong to the same nation are not different in any manner but we are suppressed.

THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE BILL

As the people of Assam, more population of Southern Assam, are instructed to move to Foreigners Tribunal, a legal body to help the victims of this mass exodus from being declared as immigrants, they are selling their land, home, jewelries to at least have the right to call them as Indians. Families are forcefully pushed into detention camps and a culture of fear is what one can find in Assam, especially Southern Assam. Yet the people of the rest still aren’t able to understand the cold blooded complexity this bill carries.

● From the perspective of people who live in the region of Barak Valley, if the Citizenship Amendment Bill, is seen then it is clearly dividing the Bengali community into two on the basis of religion: Hindus and Muslims. Even after that, most of the Bengali community supports it because of the growing intolerance inside the Assamese community, which demands for the elimination of the Bengali citizens completely.

Leaders of various political parties protest against the Bill in a very communal manner by saying that, “The Bengali community shouldn’t be allowed to live in the state and so the bill shouldn’t be allowed to pass. And if allowed, then they would demand for an Independent Assam since Assam belongs to Assamese citizens only”. The loud discriminatory and derogatory comments in an open field with thousands supporting the comments is quite enough for people of Barak Valley and Bengali regions of Brahmaputra Valley to support the bill making it a “good move”. It is like the Satan of a pessimistic story. Satan gets the support because the whole plot itself is negative and the only hope to live in the society is by letting Satan live which is supporting them.

● The Assamese community with their own political parties find Assam to be under threat since the state is being populated by the Bengali community and if spoken in a religious manner, then populated by Muslims, which the Assamese citizens find as a threat to the state and it would sustain if the bill is passed and hence, they protest against the Bill. It is quite devastating to see that the whole community, which had the history to be discriminatory over the Bengalis, today finds an even more derogatory path to eliminate the Bengali community over a political platform. The political leaders along with the extremists protest against it by breaking alliance (which is just a way to collect votes) and shooting bullets over the Bengalis of Brahmaputra Valley. For the people, who sit in an air conditioned cabin, it is quite easy to give their own opinion but the field scenario is far more devastating because the whole process of division is racist and communal.

● From the perspective of the Citizenship Amendment Bill itself, we can clearly see that the bill is a silent weapon of the ruling government to divide the Bengali community along with creating an agitation between the Assamese and Bengali. The bill clearly has little protection for the largest minority community of Assam, Bengali Muslims or Muslims as a whole. It plays the trick of divide and rule by dividing the Bengali community into Hindus and Muslims, thus reducing the strength and hence, making the fight even more brutal. It also agitates the Assamese community and hence, pushing the community to be more racist and communal.

It is quite easy to say that the bill is just communal. But the reality is, “the bill is both communal and racist” and as we all know, a victim of racism would be with the helping hand he/she gets from the government without even seeing the pros and cons and that is far more deadly for peace and humanity. It is just like a virus with government as the engineer and the communities of the state as the victim. The government injects the virus to experiment on its interests and no one identifies the side effects because the mutation and pain is a pleasant thing to play politics on.

● If the bill is seen from the perspective of Human rights activists, then it would be sane for the citizens of this country. But it would be insane to ignore the perspective of the Bengali community, and just giving an opinion on the basis of the bill only. The activists protest against the Bill because it is communal in nature since it divides the Hindus and Muslims but at the same time, it is the duty of the activists to visit the Bengali regions of Assam and to identify the reasons that why the community supports the bill! The bill is a danger because it is communal and it is a big reason to stand against the Bill plus what is even more disastrous is the elimination of people in the form of refugees to live in camps. The people who were citizens of this country yesterday, today live in Refugee camps and that is what ruins the Constitution. The bills isn’t just communal to the Muslims but it is racist to the same extent towards the Bengali unity but it is also inhuman towards the thriving humanity of this country.

So, basically, the support for the bill comes out:

of blind faith over a helping hand when the major community of the state passes communal and racist remarks before thousands without any strict judicial action against the minority community of Assam.

because of religious support for the Hindus and a repulsive attitude towards the Muslims.

because of the ongoing extremism by the Assamese extremists.

The complexity which the bill introduced inside the population cannot be seen from one angle without being a part of the state or without speaking to the communities living in the state because the bill has multiple faults and both the support and protest is for the flaws of the bill which for the mass is unseen because the covering of racism and communalism is thicker to penetrate.

Kabir Deb is a published writer and poet. Born in Haflong and completed his Masters on Life Sciences from Assam University. His work has been published from different national and international magazine like Different bTruths, Counter Currents, Reviews, Cafe Dissensus, Spillwords magazine and his works rely on political activisvm. He recently won the Reuel International Poetry Prize in 2019.


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