Singer Zubeen Garg attacked in Assam

The artist who was once seen as a front-liner of the anti-CAA movement in Assam was targeted on suspicion of siding with the government

Singer Zubeen Garg

Zubeen Garg, a popular singer who played a prominent role in leading the anti- Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Assam, was assaulted on Wednesday, on suspicions that he had softened his stand on the issue and might even be supporting the government’s stand now.

The Telegraph reported that on Wednesday, Garg was allegedly verbally abused by six youths holding broken beer bottles in their hand soon after the State agriculture department announced that the singer would be made a brand ambassador.

Lurinjyoti Gogoi, the General Secretary of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), an organisation that led the anti-CAA movement, told SabrangIndia that the common people were extremely angry on hearing this news because Zubeen seemed to have given up on a cause that he had led for months.

The coronavirus pandemic may appear to have brushed aside all other issues of the country. However, the attack on Garg is a reminder that Assam is still volatile and seething with rage over the CAA. This is because of what the anti-CAA movement meant to the people of Assam as opposed to the rest of India.

This is especially true considering some alleged Shaheen Bagh protesters joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on August 18 claiming that they opposed the Act and not the political party.

According to Gogoi, the anti-CAA movement in Assam has always been different from the agitations observed in the rest of the country.

“Assam has a long history of immigration. This problem of foreigners coming in has persisted since the time of Independence,” he said.

By this, he referred to the Assam Accord, a document signed by the Centre and the State government that, after some amendments, recognised 1971 as the base year for detecting foreigners who entered Assam.

However, the amendment to the Citizenship Act in 2019 essentially nullified this clause by saying, “any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act.”

Even the Supreme Court of India agreed that the problem of CAA is different for Assam and Tripura because the new law offered citizenship to all the Hindu Bangladeshis who had come to India prior to 2014.

The people retaliated and termed the law as ‘communally-motivated.’ They protested against the Act by stating that it further injured the culture and history of Assam.

After the Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), protests intensified in Assam. Even assurances tweeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to gain the confidence of the people. The previous acts of censorship like the suspension of internet services had made people suspicious of the government.

Gogoi said that even during the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the people continue to agitate against this unjust Act in small groups of 100 or 200 people because they believe that the government intends to create another linguistic minority.

That is also why the people raged against the agriculture department’s announcement that Zubeen would be its brand ambassador. It seemed as though the singer had decided to side with the government.

In December 2019, he addressed a mass meeting and said, “We condemn the BJP and the state and union government for their betrayal to the Assamese people. Everyone should be alert and the agitation must be peaceful and non-violent.”

Gogoi said that the anti-CAA movement in Assam has always been an anti-government movement, although it is not against any specific party.

“At the end of the day, there is no difference between the political parties like BJP, Congress or even AGP.  However, when CAA was introduced the State government stayed mum and the Central government imposed the law on us,” he said.

It was this autocratic imposition that led to the anti-government mentality of the movement.

“The government is not listening to our voice,” said Gogoi.



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