The Organizing Secretary of All Assam Minority Student Union (AAMSU) and an active voice in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Hasina Ahmed has been receiving death threats from unknown numbers, for questioning the Government on Social Media. Hasina is also a student of International Law at School of Law, Sharda University in Noida. She had completed her bachelor’s degree in Law (LLB) from University Law College, Gauhati University in Assam. Here, she speaks to Zainab Ashraf, a journalism student at Jamia Millia Islamia. Edited excerpts:
Where are you now a days?
I am at my home, Assam.
How Assam BJP Government is dealing with the rights activists in the state?
See earlier during the Congress regime as well, we used to speak a lot but at that time we never received threats like this. Now since the BJP came to power everything changed. We listen to opposition parties to correct ourselves. But the BJP is like, no we don’t want to listen to you. They don’t want to be questioned. Here in Assam, when someone speaks against the government then they are labeled as anti-national, or else they get arrested. In Assam, Akhil Gogoi, speak the most and so he was arrested and while he was in Jail, three-four people were also arrested for raising their voice. And there is Mira Gorkha, she also received threats by the BJP -IT cell. She was slut-shamed. And since I was also speaking so I was also threatened. Most of the callers were saying that do not speak against the government. So, the situation is like if you dare to speak against the government then you will be surely threaten and eventually get arrested.
How long have you been receiving threats? Does it recently started because you were participating in the anti-CAA protests?
I was receiving threats for a long time but this one was different. Like as I work against child marriage so, earlier parents used to threaten me for stopping child marriages. They say, “We can’t afford to get our daughters educated that’s why we are marrying them, and being a student, your work is to study. Why do you get into this?” Many of them even threatened me not to come to their area. But this threat was serious and was political because yes, I was an active participant in the anti-CAA protest.
Have you filed complaints about the previous threats as well?
No, those threats I received a very long time ago and I was working so, I ignored them because that was quite normal for me. I know that they don’t anything and even if I try to make them understand then also, they don’t get anything. So, when I was in Delhi the number of threats increased, and when I came back to Assam then at the airport I was threatened not to speak against the government.
What do you think being a member of AASMSU is also one of the reasons for being threatened?
No, this is not the case. My organization supports me a lot and they motivate me for speaking for our community. My community never criticizes me rather they feel proud of me. But I am the only one from my organization who has been targeted reason because I speak a lot and I cannot keep myself, mum. If someone is doing wrong then why shouldn’t I raise my voice against it?
So do you think that since you were an active participant in the anti-CAA protest that’s why you have been targeted?
Yes, other people have also been arrested and many people have said to me, “We will surely get you arrested.” But I never get afraid of them. Even if they put me behind the bars still I am not going to afraid of them. They even call me Bangladeshi though I have all the documents obviously I am not going to show them. Why give proof of my nationality to such people? They are all bhakts and they just keep on telling me not to speak anything against the government.
How much the police is cooperative with you?
After I filed the complaint, they told me that they will help me but let’s see what will happen?
Will they be able to trace who were those people who threatened you?
I received a call from two numbers. The first number was from a person belonging to the Indian army. When the PM went to Ladakh, I wrote a post on it so, he called me and threaten me by asking why am I writing all this? And said, “Do you know what is going on in Ladakh?” At that time, it didn’t bother me much. I didn’t pay attention to who is calling and why? But he continues and said, “Don’t say anything against Modi.” Then he hang-up the call. The next day, I filed a complaint and it was found out that it was a number of an army person from Barpeta district. People are saying that the boy is involved with BJP and he also has his home here so it means that someone has given him my number. Don’t know how he gets my number because this is not confirmed yet. And why did he called me like that, that also I don’t know? So, when this news came out on the BJP’s portal, I was bullied for filing a complaint against the army man. Basically, they were taking it in a different direction. And when I see the comment section it was full of hate comments. Someone wrote that I should be burnt. So, my organization members told me not to reply there because they all are BJP and RSS members. In the end, I just gave a clarification that I didn’t report against the Indian army. It’s just that I received a call from two numbers and I filed a case against them.
Being from Assam would you like to shed some light on the conditions of the Muslims of Assam? What is actually happening at the ground level?
When the protest began against the Citizenship Amendment Act, I myself was involved in it, in Jamia, Shaheen Bagh, Nizamuddin, Assam, U.P., and Bihar, wherever it happened, I attended it with my friends- Swati, Dabagna and others. They have been arrested now. At that time as well, I have been threatened for speaking against the National Register of Citizens and detention centers. The Prime Minister was telling a lie that there are no detention centers in Assam but there are and the conditions are vulnerable. Through my organization, we are working for our community like handling all the cases regarding NRC which are going on in Supreme Court.
Could you tell us what is the future of NRC in Assam?
See this issue is very old in Assam. Earlier, Congress was using this issue to play the politics now BJP is doing the same. So, I don’t think so they are going to solve this issue. They use it prior to every election and once they get won, they keep it aside. They again use it when the elections are near. Now, we all are fed-up with this. The notice of NRC was circulated in the night so the poor people had to run to reach an office on time. They don’t even possess private transport so, some of them had to rent vehicles and many of them have lost their documents in flood. So, our poor people suffer the most
You have been to many states to attend the meetings against the anti-CAA. So, could you tell us what is the future of it?
See, all the members have been hushed because the government is not letting us raise our voice nor it is allowing us to gather physically. So, we are now organizing meetings online like on Zoom and we use Facebook and Twitter to lead a trend on the same. Safoora Zargar was also get arrested and one of the professors here was writing very bad about her like she got pregnant in Shaheen Bagh protest. Eventually, I wrote against him, and then he was sent to jail. So, no matter what I will keep raising my voice against the unjust. It is decided that when this lockdown will be lifted then we will continue our protest till we get the success.
How are you engaging yourself in the time of pandemic?
I am helping people by providing them food and clothes. I even distributed rice, pulses and flour and clothes before Eid. The All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU), my organization, and my own family support me financially to further help the needy.
Could you share any incident of your life which made you concerned about society and turned you into a social activist?
When I was doing L.L.B. in Guwahati since then I am working and I used to think that the higher education percentage among girls in my area is 19 and the background from where I am coming, girls couldn’t get the higher education. And in Assam’s Student Organisation, there is no girl, I am the only girl in AASMSU organization and it’s not like they don’t want to come. Actually, their family doesn’t allow them. These thoughts always used to ran in my mind that they should come forward. On the other hand, I was also thinking about myself that I will get higher education and I will be having a family but still how will contribute towards society? So, I started working on education and child marriage in different districts while doing L.L.B. and when I went out for studying L.L.M then I didn’t get much time to do something for Assam society but when I used to come during breaks then I have certainly helped them.
Is there anyone from whom you get an inspiration?
Though my parents are not highly educated still they never discriminate on the basis of my sex. I have got freedom since I was a child. They never say no to me on anything like they never said why are you joining AAMSU in fact whenever I have to attend the meeting in AAMSU so, my father hurry me up so that I can attend it on time. So, I get all inspiration from my parents and when last year my father passed away, I was in depression but them my mother motivates me and encouraged me that I should complete my higher education. And my brother helps a lot, he give me money to help the needy like the work which I am doing for education. So, my family has supported me financially as well to help the needy.
Zainab Ashraf is a student of Masters in Development Communication at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.