'Govt trying to create Kashmir-like havoc in Assam'

"Our agitation has been very peaceful and democratic but still four people were killed in Guwahati by the security forces. This is maddening. But we Assamese will not buckle under pressure tactics," said 47-year-old singer-activist Zubeen Garg. Photo/Facebook (ZUBEENsOFFICIAL)

Singer Zubeen Garg, who enjoys a demigod status in Assam and now is one of the most vocal faces of the movement against the amended citizenship law, says a revolution has begun in the state as people have risen against this "unjust legislation" and won't buckle under pressure.

Since the beginning of the protests, 47-year-old Garg has been at the forefront with fiery speeches and emotional songs.

He alleges that the government was trying to create "Kashmir-like havoc" in Assam in the wake of protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

"Our agitation has been very peaceful and democratic but still four people were killed in Guwahati by the security forces. This is maddening. But we Assamese will not buckle under pressure tactics. We will not accept CAA at any cost, it has to go," Garg, who has sung Bollywood numbers like 'Ya Ali', 'Subah subah' and 'Jaane kya chaahe maan baawra', told PTI in an interview.

He likens the situation of Assam to that in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 that gave it a special status when a curfew was imposed and internet services were suspended.

"The government is trying to dominate us. Never seen a curfew-like this in Assam. Then they stopped internet services. This is dictatorship. They are trying to create a havoc in Assam like they did it in Kashmir," he alleges.

"Are people foolish and don't understand this CAA issue?" he asks while asserting that people were the "main power" of this movement.

"Let me tell them that people have risen and the revolution has just begun. And all sections of society stand united in this fight. We will not tolerate, Assam will not tolerate this dictatorship of government authorities," he says.

The curfew imposed in Guwahati on December 11 evening was lifted on Tuesday morning while Internet services suspended the same day was restored on Friday morning.

The singer-activist last year wrote a song "Politics Nokoriba Bondhu" on what was then the Citizenship Amendment Bill, now an Act, and this title has become almost an anthem of the anti-CAA movement.

In various protests meets, organised at Latasil playground and AEI grounds in Guwahati by All Assam Students Union (AASU) or artiste community, Garg has publicly denounced the law that has been described by protesters as "anti-constitutional, deeply polarising" and which "violates the Assam Accord of 1985".

"The Accord clear states that all illegal immigrants who have come after March 24, 1971, shall be deported. Assam cannot be a dustbin to dump illegal immigrants, to serve some political interests," he says.

According to the singer, this movement is being fought by people as the Assamese, irrespective of which religious faith or cultural community they belong to. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Bengalis, Marwaris, tribals and many others, who are Assamese-speaking have joined the stir, he said.

"This socio-cultural harmony of Assam is something that the BJP does not like, so through the CAA, they are trying to create a binary of Hindu-Muslim or Assamese-Bengali in the state," he alleges and adds, "but we will not allow Assam to become someone's laboratory."

Garg, who has been critical of the BJP-led central government, the Sarbananda Sonowal dispensation in Assam and the Congress party which ruled the state earlier over the CAA issue, reiterates that Assam needed a "political alternative" ahead of the state elections in 2021.

"We don't need BJP anymore, no AGP or Congress either. We need a new party. We have already started working on that and by next year we should have something substantial in that direction," he says, adding, regular meetings are being held with youth and senior citizens for the purpose.

Garg, however, asserts, "I hate politics and so will never join politics, but help form the party with the help of people."

"I am happy singing songs and becoming voice of my people," he says.

"I was studying chemistry at B Borooah College in Guwahati, but dropped out to pursue my passion in music... My people have given me so much love and respect. I feel it is my duty to fight for my fellow Assamese people," Garg, named after renowned composer Zubin Mehta by his father, says.

"People have huge expectations from me and it's the people who are my greatest motivation in joining this movement. And I am happy entire Assam has stood unitedly, rejecting any attempts to divide them," says the singer.

Besides Garg, several other personalities from the music, arts and film fraternity, including actresses Barsha Rani Bishaya, Prastuti Parashar and Nishita Goswami, and singers Krishnamoni Chutia, Dikshu, and Manas Robin, have vocally supported the movement and taken part in various protests.

"The role of youth and women have been phenomenal in this movement," Garg adds.

He says on December 24, he will attend a massive protest in Tezpur and then meet people in other parts of Assam to mobilise support.

Asked if he has any memory of the historic Assam agitation (1979-85) that culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, he says, "I was just a boy then. But I recall travelling on a bus and singing songs."

"I perhaps was the youngest among them," he reminisces.

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