The attitude and activities of the Student Unions in Assam, Meghalaya, and Arunachal give a sense of how powerful these student unions are.
All Assam Students’ Union or AASU is a students’ organization in Assam. It was formed in August 1967 and has since been agitating against the inclusion of illegal immigrants in the voter list. Initially, it was directed mostly against Bengalis in Assam.
The Assam Agitation slit open the diverse state of Assam into a battleground of community and identity politics.
It is best known for leading the six-year Assam Movement against all immigrants in Assam. The leadership, after the historic Assam Accord of 1985, formed a political party AsomGana Parishad (AGP), which formed the government in Assam twice from 1985 to 1989 and from 1996 to 2001.
It formed the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad in August 1979 consisting of AASU, Assam Sahitya Sabha, Purbanchaliya Lok Parishad. The Jatiyatabadi Dal, AsomYubakSamaj, and Young Lawyers’ Forum also joined the GanaParishad later on. The movement continued for six years. It became violent at some point in time. AASU that Mr. Prafulla Mahanta led during the six-year Assam agitation has been leading the anti-Citizenship Bill movement too.
Nellie Massacre – On 18th February 1983, an indigenous tribal group Lalung (also called Tiwa), along with some Assamese, attacked the village of Nellie and several nearby villages with spears, swords, sticks, and guns. The victims were Bengali-Muslim women and children who had mostly migrated from the Mymensingh district of Bangladesh. The official death toll stood at more than 2000. This was probably the most shocking incident of mass killing in India post-Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Several other violent incidents were reported in other districts such as Darrang, Lakhimpur etc.
The Assam Agitation slit open the diverse state of Assam into a battleground of community and identity politics. Oppression of the native Bodo community during the movement years proved to be disastrous and gave rise to the demand for Bodoland in the later years. Post the agitation there were demands for autonomous councils among most of the tribal communities of the state.
The Khasi Students’ Union, after the publication of the draft NRC in Assam, erected its own checkpoints in different parts of the border areas.
The United Liberation Front of Assam was also created in the backdrop of the Assam Agitation. The objective of the outfit was to “secede from India” and establish a “socialist and sovereign state” and to drive away all non-Assamese people from the state. The ensuing years and the rise of ULFA as a terrorist organization as well the damage done to the region is for everyone to see.
AASU actually does not want any non-Assamese and particularly any Bengalis in Assam, even if they are Indians. The latest is that AASU and 27 other indigenous organizations of Assam have on 22/08/18 warned it would intensify its agitation against the regularization of the entry of minority communities from Bangladesh. Their chauvinism and jingoism have now spread to some other parts of North-East.
Suraj Gogoi has criticised Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh Students Union in an article published on 23rd August 2018 in Asia Times: NRC muddle: a vigilante student union and India’s borderlands.
As stated in the article, the Khasi Students’ Union, after the publication of the draft NRC in Assam, erected its own checkpoints in different parts of the border areas. They called them “Khasi Students’ Union infiltration gates.” This created quite a ruckus as anyone going into Meghalaya was checked. It also recalls the harassment of workers from Bihar, employed in the expansion of MawlaiNongkwar Presbyterian Church, by local youth despite carrying valid documents proving their Indian citizenship.
The Assam Union members requested that All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union members to not harass indigenous Assamese people living in their state but at the same time extended their solidarity.
Also given in the article is the fact that the current convener of the All Students’ Union, Tatung Taga, in an order dated August 2, 2018, issued to the District Students’ Union, said a joint effort should be “launched” to weed out “illegal” immigrants in the state. It gave a period of 15 days from August 2-16, and from August 17 “Operation Clean Drive” would be “launched.” The union seeks to carry out Inner Line Permit checking strictly and the District Students’ Union is asked to comply and “launch” the order. On August 14, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union reached out to the All Assam Students’ Union on the eve of Operation Clean Drive. A meeting was held between the two student unions under the chairmanship of North East Students’ Organization coordinator Pritam Wai Sonam. The Assam Union members requested that All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union members to not harass indigenous Assamese people living in their state but at the same time extended their solidarity.
Arunachal is a historically labor-deficit state. There are so many of migrant workers who are engaged in various state infrastructure projects, primarily roads, bridges, and dams. There are even cases of workers not receiving their due or being intimidated by owners and contractors, among others. Many have left the state because of this sort of tyranny.
The attitude and activities of the student unions in Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal as described above gives a sense of how powerful these student unions are, which questions the legitimate security infrastructure of the state as they take matters into their own hands. This is no less than a parallel government that perpetually ignores immigration and labour history, restricts movement of people, imposes its unlawful dictates and dehumanizes them.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.