GUWAHATI: Rahul Gandhi began his campaign for the upcoming assembly election in the state on Valentine’s Day on Sunday by appealing to Assamese sentiments and promising to the large gathering in upper Assam’s historic Sivasagar town that the party would defend the Assam Accord and resist the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at any cost.
Boarding field, which was brimming over with supporters, reverberated with the popular slogan of the Assam Agitation of the 1980s, ‘Ahoi Aah Olai Aah, Khedoi Khed Bideshik Khed’ (appealing to locals to come out of their homes and drive out illegal migrants) as Rahul, wearing an indigenous red and white woven scarf, popularly called gamosa, addressed the rally.
Interestingly, the gamosa, often seen around Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s neck, was used as a protest symbol here with supporters putting a cross mark on them saying no to CAA.
“The Assam Accord brought peace to the state. The principles of the accord will be defended by me and the Congress party. We won’t step back even an inch. You can see, we have put a cross mark on CAA written on the gamosa. Whatever be the consequences, CAA won’t be allowed to be implemented,” said Rahul.
Unlike in West Bengal, BJP has gone almost silent on CAA in Assam, where violent protests rocked the state over the new law.
Rahul said the Congress would teach a lesson to those who have attempted to breach the 1985 accord by bringing in CAA. “No power on earth can break up Assam. Whoever will try to touch the Assam Accord or spread hatred, the Congress and the people of Assam will teach them a lesson together,” he said.
The legislation, protesting organizations feel, will turn Assam into a land of illegal ‘foreigners’ as it will regularize the entry of illegal non-Muslim Bangladeshis, who sneaked into Assam post-1971, the cut-off year for the detection and deportation of illegal foreigners from the state as endorsed in the accord.
The Congress leader got a standing ovation from party MPs, MLAs and AICC observers appointed for the Assam election.
The gamosa was seen flying high all around the venue, surrounded by Ahom era monuments, bearing testimony to the glorious rule of the Ahoms, which still plays a crucial role in state elections.
The sensitive issue of indigenous identity has made and unmade governments in the past. In a significant move, the campaign was launched in upper Assam, which produced one of Congress’s biggest stalwarts in recent times, three-time chief minister, late Tarun Gogoi, a member of the Ahom community, whose population is around 35 lakh.
Besides, Sivasagar is close to the heart of the Gandhi family.
BJP went on to win the 2016 election with their popular slogan to safeguard ‘Jati, Mati, Bheti’ (community, home and hearth) of the people in the wake of illegal infiltration.
When the CAA was passed, Congress called its election promise a “blatant lie”.
BJP has argued CAA would protect persecuted minorities, but Congress and other parties view the law as a means to safeguard Hindu migrants.
“CAA still continues to be the biggest issue in Assam. It is loud and clear that Congress will fight the assembly polls on the identity issue like the BJP did last time. But we are protecting all genuine Indians living in Assam, not Hindus alone, not for those who are foreigners as per the Assam Accord,” said Kushal Gogoi, a member of the party, from Mahmora in Sivasagar.
Sivasagar, earlier known as Rangpur, was the seat of power established by the founder of the Ahom dynasty, Saulung Sukapha, who united diverse communities of present-day Assam.
Located 363 km east of Guwahati, Sivasagar served as the capital of the mighty Ahoms, who ruled for six hundred years, the longest by any dynasty in the world, till the advent of the British.
Head of the party’s campaign committee for the state election, Pradyut Bordoloi, told TOI that Sivasagar has a historic significance.
“Sivasagar is the epicentre of Assamese nationalism. A strong message will go out to those who are trying to divide Assam with their communal politics,” he added.