North East protests against CAA with dharnas and songs
December 23, 2019
ITANAGAR: Come Monday, when the Tripura Era New Year of "Tring" comes, Issac Debbarma will not be celebrating it. Away from his home, Issac, an ethnic Twiprasa from the state of Tripura, joined members of the Assamese community living in Arunachal Pradesh’s capital, Itanagar, for a sit-in protest here today.
He and those he had joined demanded one thing: scrap the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Violence in the protests across the Northeast have been relatively low since December 13 but have resulted in at least five deaths (officially) in Assam, while unverified reports place the number higher, including those in Tripura.
Reports of figures and violence have been difficult to verify from Tripura but several sources claimed that indigenous tribal Tripuris are currently not stepping out of their homes fearing retribution from the other majority ethnic population of the state.
Kabir Jamatia, a musician-turned-artist manager from Tripura, said that while the situation is "normal" in the capital Agartala, there are reports of violence in the other districts.
He also said that the state-wide Tring celebration celebrated by the ethnic Twiprasa has been called off this year.
“What is there to celebrate,” he said over the phone speaking from Agartala.
Jamatia’s feelings are echoed by the general secretary of the Twipra Students Federation, Sunil Debbarma, who said that the festival will be a more sombre affair this time.
Sunil also claimed that apart from one death resulting from the anti-CAA protests, many have been injured and that several “fake” complaints against the protestors have been lodged with the police.
For now, protests in Tripura have stopped but are likely to resume after Christmas.
Issac, a businessman who shuttles between Naharlagun (part of the Itanagar township) and Dimapur in Nagaland, said that the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the parliament was a black day, and that there is no reason to celebrate this year.
Speaking during the protest today, Issac was overcome with emotions as his voice cracked over the loudspeakers and thanked the people and the police of Arunachal Pradesh for "even allowing them to protest".
“Because we are a minority our voice is not heard in any place,” he said, adding that he never attended a protest before today.
He also said that he regretted the fact that he had voted for the BJP and said that "Tripuris have been listening to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for six years and it is time he listens to us".
Today’s sit-in dharna organised by the Assamese Society of Capital Complex in Itanagar was characteristic of similar protests that have been daily held across Assam since December 13, where protestors sang songs about Assamese nationalism.
Women dressed in the traditional mekhla chador held placards and the gamusa (a white cloth with red motif that holds great cultural significance) demanding the Act to be removed with the words "CAA aamak nalage, nalage, nalage. Joi Aai Axom" (We don’t want CAA. Hail mother Assam) written on them, as people sang the famous Assamese bard, late Bhupen Hazarika’s songs filled the air.
The calls of "Joi Aai Axom", a phrase popularised during the Assam Agitation (1979-85), played in sync with Hazarika’s songs "Manuhe manuhor baaba" and "Aami Axomiya nohou dukhiya".
Today’s protest came on the same day that a call was made for people from Arunachal Pradesh to walk to Delhi in protest against the Act.
In Delhi, students and professionals from the region came under the banner of North-East India Unites for Justice & Peace staged a protest at Jantar Mantar.
First published in The Citizen.
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