“CAB aami namanu” (we will not accept CAB). This slogan has become louder in the atmosphere of Assam today by the student communities; while NDA polled 293 votes against opposition’s 82 votes in the Lok Sabha. It is one of the critical moments for Assamese people, who have to suffer for their indigenous rights, generation after generation. The leaders from different organisations in Assam argued that NDA divided the unity of the movement against CAB in NE region, by giving safeguards to Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur, as well as protection for Sixth Schedule areas in Assam.
This is the time where most of the peasants in Assam are busy in their paddy field and preparing for Na khuwa, the festival which is started with the preparation of the newly cultivated rice of the year. The young peasants, while carrying the Dangari – the bunches of paddy from the field- click a selfie and post it on their Facebook profile to oppose CAB. Some of them also mentioned economic independence as an Axomiya peasant which is one of the primary themes for the community, since the history of Axom Andolon, (Assam Movement), Swadhin Axom (Independent Assam), Krishak Andolon (Peasant movement).
This is also the time of end semester examinations in all the colleges, under different universities, in the state. The students whose grandparents and parents had directly or indirectly suffered from the Bhakha Andolon (language movement) and Axom Andolonare are now taking part in the movements against CAB.
Consequently, each generation of the state raises similar questions based on indignity to the Indian state. The All Assam Student Union declared that the Union Government is misleading the people of Assam, by bargaining the CAB with the constitutional safeguard. On the contrary, it is the right of the Assamese people, who have already taken the burden of foreign migrants since 1971.
However, the question of ‘indignity’ and ‘identity’ of Assamese people cannot be expressed without the question of ‘land’. Land accessibility and land rights are the two critical aspects of the state based on which the BJP government was formed by introducing the dicey discourse of Jati, Mati and Bheti (identity, land and homestead).
Tania Li (2014), argues that land is a ‘strange subject’ since it ‘stays in place’ and cannot be removed. The ‘material emplacement’ of land, as said by Li, shapes people’s association with rights over land in distinct ways.
However, Li’s argument is not enough to explain the question of land in the Brahmaputra valley, where instead of staying in place, in reality, the land is eroded and disappears continuously due to flood and riverbank erosion. The struggle here, is to protect land, to continue the livelihood, such as agriculture.
In the last five decades, the Brahmaputra River has eroded 4000 square kilometres of land, among which, the average eroded land per year is 80 square kilometres. Indeed, the question of land and its significance for livelihood need an analytical overview, to define why the Assamese people are opposing CAB.
Many of the flood-affected people who are still living in the embankments and being evicted in the name of encroachers are shocked to hear about CAB. The people from one of the most vulnerable evictions of Amchang region near Guwahati argued, “This government is not able to give safety to the khilanjia (indigenous), and now they want to give citizenship to the immigrants based on religion!”
Patterns of resistance are often more difficult to recognise in the environment, precisely because, the weak rarely try to raise the public attention to their resistance (Scott, 1985). However, patterns of resistance do occur and are notably associated with the dominance pushed by the more powerful actor in the field.
A group of Gauhati University students slit their wrists with the slogan, “We will write history with our blood, we oppose CAB, Jai Aaai Axom.” It reminds Kalaguru Bish Rabha’s famous dialogue, “Kebal janaxangkhayai jati dangar nakare; jati danagr hoi, jatiyatabadar hake dekai dia hiar rangali tejere” (Not only does the population make a community stronger; a community becomes stronger by the blood of the youth in the name of nationalism).
Though the student community, who are taking part in the protests against CAB, did not have the experience of Axom Andolon, they stated that the nature of their protest depends on how Dilli (Delhi) is treating them.
This statement indicates that this movement will be long and it will take a stand to critically argue the positions of the post-colonial Indian state, in the context to preserving political and cultural rights of the khilanjias of Assam.