An Analysis of the State of Rule of Law during Assam Movement in Assam, India

Youth movement is a prominent feature of politics of Assam viewed as the most disruptive area of North-East India. Youth participation in various mass movements and their initiation of such struggles has been significant here. It has been viewed that every democratic movement in Assam seemed to be initiated by youth, which is evident from the colonial period. In the post independent era, youths are making a determined bid to change the existing society and polity of the state. Such movements have also toppled the state governments and at times forced governments to negotiate on issues involving policies affecting governance of the state. Such occurrences of youth movements in contemporary Assam center round democratic politics of India. Democratic politics involves a process of decision making that again involves popular participation. Participation of this kind would, of course, involve the principles of civil liberties and rule of law. Since youth movements have been a fact of history of the politics of Assam, there is a possibility that such movements might have affected the essential norms of democratic politics of the state. If we define democracy to include political participation, civil liberties and rule of law, it is necessary to examine how these features of democracy are affected by youth movement. This paper aims at examining how youth movement influences the democratic politics of Assam, particularly in the matter of rule of law. The researchable question we intend to examine is – does youth movement affect rule of law, the basic norm of democratic politics of the state? To facilitate the above, we plan to analyze the politics of the “Assam Movement” (1979-85) led by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), the leading student union of Assam, for an enhanced understanding of consequences of youth movement for norms of democratic politics of the state.
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Youth movement in Assam, India takes place in the political reality of democratic politics of India which as a concept involves the principles of rule of law along with popular participation and civil liberty. In view of the fact that democratic politics entails popular participation which in turn involves civil liberties and rule of law, we will examine how youth movement affects these essential features of this politics. Since youth movement has been a prominent feature of the politics of Assam, (Bora, 1992, Deka, 1996, Rahman, 2009, Rahman, 2009), there is a possibility that the political attitude and the behaviour of the youth might have affected the democratic politics of the state. Attempts to study the consequences of youth movement for democratic politics deserve praise and encouragement. It has been seen that much of the problems of civil liberties resolve non-adherence to the rule of law (Raj, 2004). In this context, this paper has tried to analyze the impact of youth movement where the youth remain the real organizer on rule of law as the essential element of the democratic politics of the state. The question we intend to examine is – does youth movement affect rule of law, the basic norm of the democratic politics of the state? To answer this question,  this paper has analyzed the politics of the famous “Assam Movement” (1979-85) led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), considered to be the most significant and influential student organization of North-East India. We have also examined whether the movement increased or decreased rule of law during pro- and anti-movement reporting. This paper is based on both primary and secondary data. The general methods adopted for the study are both empirical and analytical. Qualitative technique is used to study the impact of youth movement on norms of democratic politics of the state from published and unpublished records which include the study of official records and diaries of the student union and government reports on those. However, before analyzing the impact of youth movement on the basic norm of democracy, it is important to conceptualize the definition of youth and youth movement. Effort has also been made to conceptualize Rule of law as provisioned in the Indian constitution which incorporates certain ideas.

Conceptualizing Youth and Youth Movement

Youth, as a distinct social category has been generally defined as a group of human beings who have reached the end of puberty but have not yet matured as adults (Friedman, 1971). Generally, biologists have taken youth as an age group, usually between 12 to 30 years, a period which is reproductively mature (Timiras ed., 1994).  S.N. Eisenstadt states that although, the basic biological processes of maturation are probably more or less similar in all human societies, their cultural definitions vary from society to society (Truzi et al., 1972). This group is full of psychic and physical energy and enthusiasm which needs outlets (Misra et al., 1975). If we identify youth in the above terms, then we can define Youth Movement as combined actions of humans of this age group (Feuer, 1969). Youth movement was a term that came to be widely used after World War I for actions of organized youth groups who began to seek political influence through various planned campaigns (Ahluwalia, 1972). However, in such usage, a lot of confusions seem to persist. It was evident that movements organized and led by youth could not have been possible without youth activism. All around the world youth are seen as planners, decision-makers, advocates and leading actors in campaigns supporting or opposing decisions, policies and norms (Checkoway and Gutierrez, 2006). The youth movements in such usage involve youth activism. Such activism could be best summarized as engagement of youth in organizing people for some aspects of social action (Rahman, 2009). Scholars argue that in the context of a society, divided into antagonistic classes and based on the principle of competition, the growing flow of information, the technological revolution and a doubling of the volume of knowledge each ten or twenty years leading to the acquisition of new knowledge by the younger generation, which was inaccessible to the majority of its elders, might give rise to cognitive barrier between the elder and younger generation. This in turn may complicate their communication and continuity of ideas and aspirations and may also create obstacles in mutual understanding between generations (Batalov, 1975). E.W. Bakke argues that the stage of youth is a maturation process in which youth search for an adult role in society for self-identity and social integration (Bakke, 1967).  A.K. Baruah points out that all through the modern history and particularly since 19th century, the participation of young people in mass movements has been very common (Baruah ed., 2002). However, it must be noted here that movements either led or participated by youth in India centre round the democratic politics of India (Altbach ed., 1968, Ahluwalia, 1972, Aikara, 1977, Altbach, 1968, Reddy, 1947).

Conceptualizing Rule of Law

Democracy which itself is a litigious term as a form of politics involves principles of popular rule, ensuring human rights and rule of law (Sartori, 1962). Democratic politics would thus involve, handling of the affairs of a people to enable it to lead a peaceful, orderly and satisfying life through a process of decision making that involves popular participation concerning civil liberties and rule of law (Appley, 2001, Albraster, 1994, Sandbrook, 2000). The concept of rule of law intends to describe a key component of the social and political orders found in the United States and other liberal-democratic states. In other words, the concept can be traced back to the western tradition of Roman republics and was fully developed by the liberal constitutional states which are characterized in the words of Max Weber, by “legal domination”. It is found that the rule of law is something different from the instrumentalist conception of rule by law of the legalist philosophers in ancient Chinese history. It is found that under rule “by” law, law is an instrument of the government, and the government is above the law. However, in contrast, under rule “of” law, no one is above law including the government. The core of rule of law is an autonomous legal order. Here, the authority of law does not depend on law’s instrumental capabilities, but on its degree of autonomy is the degree to which law is distinct and separate from other normative structures such as politics and religion. It is also evident that as an autonomous legal order, rule of law has at least three meanings. First, rule of law is a regulator of government power. Second, rule of law means equality before law. Third, rule of law means procedural and formal justice. However, promoting the rule of law does not indicate elimination of rule of person as laws are not given but they have to be made by certain people. Moreover, the application of laws is not automatic; they are applied by some people. Even in the advanced liberal democratic countries, which are regarded as having the most developed systems of rule of law --human factors play important roles in shaping traditions, customs and institutional cultures that are integral parts of the liberal democratic machinery (Bo Li, 2000). “Liberal constitutionalism is the technique of retaining the advantages of (rule of law as well as rule of person) while lessening their respective shortcomings” (Sartori, 1987). At the same time, the concept of rule of law is the outcome of the legal and political experience of the people. Only the doctrine of government of enumerated powers under a written constitution can check the parliamentary supremacy by making some rights including right to life, to liberty, to reputation beyond the reach of the parliament. However, the principal concern of rule of law is to limit and discipline public power. It indicates three essential components of rule of law. First, law is the supreme over the acts of both government and private people. Second, rule of law requires for its operation the making of just laws which embody and give expression to the more general and somewhat amorphous normative principles of rule of law.  Third, the exercise of public power must find its ultimate source in some legal rule and the relationship must be regulated only by law. The doctrine of rule of law signifies that laws ought to be equal, general and known. It foresees the pervasiveness of the spirit of law throughout the whole range of government. The rule of law is the “met-wand” for harmonizing individual liberty and public order. It is the operating instrument of justice in a civilized society. The Franks Committee states that the rule of law stands for the view that decisions should be made by the application of known principles of law. In general, such decisions will be predictable and a citizen will know where he is. This means that any government action should be on the basis of pre-determined rules. Though complexity of the modern state requires discretionary powers however, discretion is not the anti-thesis of the rule of law (Venkatachaliah, 2004). Another view on rule of law states that it forms the fundamental principle of the constitution which again has three meanings. In the first place, it means the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law opposing the influence of arbitrary power and excluding the existence of arbitrariness, of prerogative, or even of wide discretionary authority on the part of the government. Secondly, it means again the equality before law or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary law courts. Thirdly, the rule of law may also be used as a formula for expressing the fact that with us the law of the constitution, the rules which in foreign countries naturally form part of a constitutional code, are not the source but the consequence of the rights of individuals, as defined and enforced by the courts meaning the constitution as the result of the ordinary law of the land (Dicey, 1973). The rule of law in a descriptive sense is regarded as the hypothetical judgments which state that according to a national or international legal order certain consequences determined by the order ought to take place under the conditions determined by the order.  However, the rule of law is different from the legal norm. The difference is between the function of legal cognition and the entirely different function of legal authority represented by the organ of legal community. At the same time, rules of law formulated by science of law are not simply repetitions of the legal norms created by the legal authority (Kelson, 1970).  However, the realist’s arguments for rule of law is that the law is not self-applying, which means that law by itself cannot indicate exactly which sets of factual circumstances are covered by it and which are not. The realist position states that law must be general and should apply to more than one case and should be expressed in words (Benditt, 1978). While understanding aspects of rule of law and the place of legal procedures within it includes two essential elements. Firstly, decisions should be made according to the existing law and secondly, they should be made on the merits of the alternatives. It means that legal procedures should be designed so as to insure that decisions follow the law. Simultaneously, law works through the medium of decisions.

The above discussion reveals that rule of law is a desirable ideal. It is distinct from the values to be served through legislation; however it is found that it can be justified by the reference to the service of those values (Lyons, 1989). The liberal conception of justice and the requirements of the rule of law constitute a morality of duty. It specifies justice of what it is and how it can be achieved. However, they do not include an ethical system for achieving a good society. Pursuit of justice is influenced by the extent to which people adhere to a morality of aspiration. However, the liberal fusion of justice and rule of law provides opportunity to mankind to pursue both virtue and justice. It must also be stated here that adherence to it is the price that must be paid to achieve a good society as well (Barnett, 1998). Accordingly, it is found that rule of law can be conceptualized as the basic norm of democracy which seeks to highlight the importance of law in a political and social order which again means that nothing is above law, not even the government. It seeks to maintain equality before law while opposing the arbitrary power. So laws should be general and known to everyone aiming to maintain public power. It must be noted that laws are not self-applying.  For the use of the term rule of law in this work, we will therefore, use it as consulted by the Indian constitution which as a system of power incorporates some of these ideas (Franklel et al. 2000, Palkhivala, 1974, Austin, 2000).


The Assam Movement and the State of Rule of Law

The Assam Movement led by the students of Assam under the banner of AASU, which was generally called the anti-foreigners’ movement, showed the greater seeds of involvement of youth activism. This movement had a wider dimension in comparison to the student movements fought before in the state of Assam for different issues. The movement under the leadership of students became able to garner support from the various sections of people which made it a huge mass movement (Rahman, 2009). However, it was found that from its rigid adherence to the little nationalist slogan: “Assam for Assamese”, the local patriotism was regarded as the main creed or ideology of the movement with chauvinism as its inalienable feature (Chattopadhyay, 1990). While the movement leaders claimed that the movement was fought in a peaceful Gandhian method but some viewed it as a violent and fascist movement (Ahmed ed., 2006). It might be stated here that at the very beginning of the movement, AASU’s campaign and the progress of the movement were democratic in nature. The AASU members met at Jorhat in July’78 where they prepared a sixteen point charter of demands enumerating the price rise, better employment opportunities and expulsion of foreigners. Picketing in front of the Deputy Commissioners’ offices, Satyagraha, bandh calls and also the programme of fast-unto-death marked the feature of the means and measures of the movement. At the same time, under the leadership of AASU and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), another elite wing of the movement, the campaign started with Gana Abasthan Dharmaghat on 6th and 7th September, 1979. The classes were boycotted and the students participated in processions to the nearest offices of the Deputy Commissioner (DC), the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO), the Sub-Deputy Collector (SDC), the Block Development Officer (BDO) and staged a sit-in strike, where slogans were raised in support of the AASU charter of demands. The charter included the immediate detection and deportation of all foreign nationals from Assam, steps to prevent influx from mainland India, checking the price rise, long-term policy to deal with floods, erosion and drought, proper utilization of Assam’s vast water resources and fulfillment of all other outstanding grievances of the people of Assam. On 30th August, 1979, the Jorhat Engineering College students went on hunger strike for postponement of the examinations. The students of Dibrugarh abstained from classes and went on hunger strike for the release of the arrested leaders of the movement. Meanwhile, the students of B. Barooah College picketed against the non-fulfillment of various demands. The students of Cotton College, Gauhati started picketing the college to press for fulfillment of the assurances. AASU’s call for mass picketing from 12th to 14th September, 1979, received little response except in Golaghat sub-division. Several students were injured due to the police lathi-charge in front of the office of SDO. With the twelve hour bandh call of Golaghat sub-division by AASU, the agitation gained momentum. At Sibsagar sub-division also the students abstained from classes, staged a sit-in-strike in front of SDO’s office and raised slogans. The picketers seemed to paralyze the normal administrative works at various places like Kamrup, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Nowgong and Barpeta. It was to be noted here that essential services like Posts & Telegraphs, normal works in Banks and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) offices, private establishments and individual concerns, Assam State Transport Corporation, and Maligaon Railway Headquarters were seriously affected by the student picketing. Meanwhile, the press release by the AASU alleged lathi-charge by the police, unnecessary use of tear gas and also for large scale atrocities. But, at the same time, The Assam Tribune, the leading English daily of the state, reported that about five hundred fifty people were arrested for violation of prohibitory orders. Consequently, it was seen that the democratic and self-governing techniques marked the essentials of the student movement, which contributed towards strengthening rule of law of the state.

However, amid the peaceful and democratic means of the movement, the seeds of violence were also found resulted in breaking the rule of law of the state. Violence occurred in various places of the Brahmaputra Valley proper. Clashes and lootings were reported from Kamrup. In the Barak Valley, another valley of the state mostly dominated by Bengalis, many places of Karimganj, Hailakandi and Silchar were affected by clashes on 8th January, 1980. There were also clashes at Tulsibari. Curfew had to be imposed in places like Nalbari, Barpeta and Silchar for maintaining rule of law. Moreover, for two months Barpeta, Nalbari sub-divisions and parts of Gauhati sub-division were declared as disturbed areas under the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 and Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958. Police were found firing tear gas shells and hundreds of picketers were arrested for breaking the order (Murty, 1983). It was seen that though the movement was fought in a democratic manner on many occasions it became violent which affected the rule of law of the state. The picketing of the oil installation by the movement leaders led the government to take preventive measures by declaring half a kilometer area on both sides of the 600 kilometer pipeline as a protected area. But, it worsened the situation, and was severely protested both by AASU and AAGSP. AASU’s agitation programs like “Cycle March, Martial noises” etc., observing 1st May, 1980, as the Peace and Harmony Day with everyone wearing white badges in protest against the Disturbed Areas and Armed Forces Special Powers notifications also influenced the rule of law of the state. The picketing of the oil installation by the movement leaders for stopping oil supplies outside Assam, also affected the rest of the country. The movement leaders said, “But without it, you in Delhi or Bombay would never have realized the magnitude of the problem here.” During the second round of the President’s rule after the fall of Anuwara Taimur ministry in June, 1981, the movement leaders launched a full scale agitation with various programs beginning from August, 1981, including protest day, bandh calls and boycott of the Independence Day of the country. These agitation programs resulted in clashes in Upper Assam, Goalpara and also the explosions in railways which reached the highest point with the month-long agitation from 27th December, 1981 onward ending with a twelve-hour Assam curfew on 26th January, the Republic Day, 1982. The youth leaders also declared a two-day state-wide poster campaign and sixty-hour road blockade, which affected the rule of law of the state to the greatest extent. The agitators also protested the illegal installation of the Keshav Gogoi-led government with foreigners’ votes. In protest, total non-cooperation in the offices and educational institutions in the state was launched by the agitators. According to the government sources, the state exchequer suffered a loss of Rs. 45 crores by way of revenue up to June 15, 1982. Moreover, these protest programs also were resulted in the financial loss of petroleum and the fertilizer sector and the railways of Rs. 1,272 cores and Rs. 32 crores respectively (Acharyya, 1987). The leadership of the movement was also alleged developing close ties with the armed secessionist groups of the neighboring hill states of North-Eastern India-the Muiva Group of Nagaland, the Mizo National Front of Mizorum, the Peoples’ Liberation Army of Manipur, the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity of Tripura and similar groups in Meghalaya. It was also reported that AASU volunteers were being given training in firearms for building up armed forces to carry on the agitation for secession (Ramamurti, 1980). According to the government sources, it was also stated that 394 persons lost their lives during the early period of the movement (Acharyya, 1987). Although violence and terror seemed to have been present from the initial stage of the movement among the means adopted by certain sections of the leadership to win support or at least for submission, however, there is a qualitative difference between the violence in the early phase of the movement and that in its later phase. Earlier, it was sporadic, furtive and less organized like the riots of January, 1980, cases of assassinations by the hard-core activists and murders as replies to the use of force by the state. However, since 1981, when it became clear that an immediate solution of the movement was unlikely and as a result of the firm action of the government against the movement, the agitationists pursued the procurement of arms and training in their use (Gohain, 1985). The mass murders in Assam started from the very beginning of the movement, however, according to a statement made by the Union Home Minister in Parliament, it was reported that from 1979 to 1982 just prior to the calling of the election, there were 272 murders, 1404 assaults, 425 cases of arson, 346 cases of intimidation, 228 cases of mischief, 147 cases of kidnapping, 330 cases of explosion and 146 cases of recovery of explosives like bombs. These were recorded as attributed to the agitation. However, the bloody election held in 1983 witnessed the tragic incidents at Nellie, a Muslim immigrant village, where more than a thousand belonging to the Muslim minority community were reportedly killed by agitation leaders and about 25,000 people were rendered homeless by torching their houses. The total tally of killing was more than 5,000 with many belonging to both linguistic and religious minorities (Surjeet, 1983, recorded interviews with respondents of Nellie).

It indicates that the violation of rule of law in Assam reached the highest point with the genocide, bloodshed and mass killing before, during and after the election of 1983. The minority people of Nellie, Gohpur, Chaulkhuwa Chapori, Mukalmua, Samaria, Silapathar, Tiyak, Hatisal and many other places became the victims of such genocide and mass killing. Amongst these, the horrifying Nellie massacre was the record killing of 3300 persons, including around 1,819 children (Recorded interviews with respondents of Nellie. At the same time, at Chaulkhuwa Chapori also 190 children were killed by unknown assailants (Sharma, 2007).The total degradation of rule of law during the movement period was evident immediately after the announcement of the assembly elections, when several pamphlets were circulated by the agitationists, designed at stopping the elections by violent means. The “Death Squad” of the “Satarka Bahini” issued warning notices to the government employees, which included threats enumerating annihilation of employees, their sons and daughters, rape of wives and grown-up daughters. At the same time, the action plan of the agitationists included inter-alia, setting fire to polling booths and vehicles carrying polling materials, capture of ballot boxes, prevention of rail movement by removal of rail-lines and fish-plates, destruction of bridges and damage to roads, putting up road-blocks, sabotage of transmission lines, fixing of nails on the road to puncture tires, putting sugar in petrol tanks, enlisting persons adept in archery and kidnapping of anti-agitation people and their children. Moreover, leaflets advocating a separate independent state of Assam were widely distributed by the movement leaders, with slogans like “We shall form our country with the blood of martyrs”, “When Assam will be free”, “Bloody Indians go back”, “India has no right to rule Assam”, “Assam region should think of an independent state of Assam after separating from India”, “Indian dogs leave Assam” etc. These slogans were also splashed on the walls of Gauhati during the period of the movement (Surjeet, 1983). Such activities of the movement leaders in the name of the movement for deporting the foreigners from Assam seriously affected the rule of law of the state. Many a times, the students broke laws while responding to the governments’ repressive measures. It was apparent that because of the non-adherence to rule of law, large scale violation of civil liberties of the people of the state occurred particularly during the period of the movement (Rahman, 2010).

Such violation of rule of law was not always by the agitators, state coerciveness was also responsible for it. During the course of the movement, the government was found to be resorting to various repressive measures to suppress the movement. Various acts of atrocities were committed by the police forces, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other armed forces which led to the loss of many lives. Reference could be made to Sri Khargeswar Talukdar, a student leader, who lost his life as a result of brutal police lathi-charge at Barpeta. Purna Nirmalia, a teen aged school boy, also faced merciless assault from the miscreants. The Army personnel committed all sorts of insults and assaults on the innocent villagers of North Kamrup on January 18, 1980, when certain disturbances took place as a result of the killing of Dilip Huzuri, a young student, by some illegal immigrants in a very cruel manner. Exploitations were carried out on the minor girls and pregnant women. Moreover, old men and women were beaten up indiscriminately by army men. At the same time, CRPF men, at the command of police officials and the district administration, resorted to firing on the conglomeration of more than seven thousand peaceful picketers at the oil installation at Duliajan, to stop the flow of crude from Assam demanding deletion and deportation of foreigners from Assam. It was reported that thirty rounds of ammunitions were fired in a few minutes on the closely assembled peaceful picketers without any prior warning (The All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad, 1980). On the other hand, four youths were killed and several injured by the firing of the CRPF at the picketing of the oil installation at Narengi, where another oil refinery is located in Assam. This was condemned as the barbaric acts being made by the guardian of law (Acharyya, 1987). Although these facts were brought to the notice of the government but government did not respond to such matters (The All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad, 1980). The bloody polls of 1983 imposed on Assam was also considered as nonsensical exercise of official democracy as the agitators said that they would not allow holding of elections in the state before the foreigners’ question was sorted out (Mahanta, 1998). They also threatened a blood bath if the elections were held in Assam without amending the voters’ list (Janasanyog, 1980). However, in spite of such threats, elections were conducted in Assam in a brutal manner which witnessed a huge massacre of people in the state involving both natives and the foreigners. At the same time, a fresh series of repressive measures were also imposed on the state in the wake of the election. In the name of maintenance of rule of law of the state, various coercive acts including National Security Act (NSA), the Assam Special Powers (Press) Act, 1960, the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), the Assam Executive Magistrates (Temporary Power) Act, 1983, section 17 and 18 of the Indian Police Act of 1861 were used. Moreover, 37 battalions of the CRPF, Haryana Armed Police, Provincial Armed Constabulary of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan Armed Constabulary, Madhya Pradesh Police, Bihar Military Police, Nagaland Police, Assam Police, Border Security Force and Home Guards of the state in addition to the regular police force of the state were deployed. The police firings took place at many places of the state, which became a regular feature from the very beginning of the announcement of the election. More than 160 people were reported to have been killed and other three thousand were injured during barbarous police firing throughout the state during the election period. The election of 1983 also caused a massive outbreak of group clashes all over the state affecting the age-long peace and harmony amongst the people of Assam. At the same time, the indigenous people were also attacked by the immigrants and their cohorts unleashing a veritable reign of terror (Mahanta, 1998). The indiscriminate state atrocities over the agitationists and the indigenous people of Assam also affected the prohibitory orders of the state. State violence against the people of Assam during the period of the movement was severe, and many people were killed for joining the movement. This also disturbed the regular operation of the rule of law of the state.

Youth Movement and Rule of Law: Recent Trend

While discussing the recent occurrences of youth movement and its impact on the rule of law of the state we find that youth activism under AASU acts as the main pressure group of the state affecting the process of governance of Assam (Rahman, 2009). It may be noted here that the role of AASU for the solution of the different burning problems of the state has been significant in the recent years. It has covered issues like implementation of the Assam Accord 1985, giving special constitutional status for Assam with right over land and resources, problems of floods and erosion, improvement of rail and road communication, construction of a new bridge on the river Brahmaputra at Dibrugarh, National Highway and Gauge Conversion Projects, better relief and rehabilitation package to the flood victims of the state, setting up of rail coach factory and more technical institutes for better educational facility in the state (The Assam Tribune, 2009). The AASU demands the appointment of academicians in the school managing committees while reinstating politicians. Protest movement has also been started under the leadership of the student body against the government to fill up all the vacant posts of teachers in the government schools and to appoint permanent principal and headmasters in the educational institutions (The Assam Tribune, 2009). The AASU has demanded sealing of the Indo-Bangladesh border to stop the cross-border influx from Bangladesh (The Assam Tribune, 2009). It has pressurized the government to complete the work of border fencing to prevent further infiltration from the neighboring country (The Assam Tribune, 2009). The student body has also asked both the central and the state government to resolve the problem of terrorism and proliferation of jehadi groups particularly from Bangladesh (The Assam Tribune, 2008). While protesting government’s decision on the construction of mega dams in the state, the student body went for satyagraha at the district headquarters of the state and insisted on stoppage of construction activities of the Lower Subansiri Hydel Power Projects (LSHP) at Gerukamukh on Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border until the completion of the final report of the expert committee (The Times of India, 2012). Recently, AASU has been able to compel the government to hold talks with the anti-dam protestors on the mega dam issue to resolve the month-long agitation by more than 30 organizations (The Times of India, 2012). It has also demanded the publishing of white papers asking to clear the respective stands of central and state government on the issues of flood and erosion faced by the people of the state (The Assam Tribune, 2009). Moreover, AASU also shows its clear stand against the Naga encroachment on Assam’s land at Merapaani, Assam which has resulted in the vacation of police cams by Naga cops on Assam’s land (The Telegraph, 2011). From the recent activities of AASU, it is found that although youth activism affects the process of governance of the state, however, there has been a major difference in the role of the youth organization particularly during the period of the Assam Movement and in recent times. During the movement, it played the role of the vanguard of the movement affecting the process of governance of the state to a considerable extent, but the current activities of AASU reflect it as a major pressure group of the state which emphasizes more on the constructive activities beneficiary to the masses of the state. However, it must be stated here that AASU as the biggest youth organization of North-East India has tremendous impact on the norms and values of the democratic politics of the state which itself signifies youth movement as the rising phenomenon of the politics of Assam.


The discussion reveals that the imposition of the election during movement caused immense loss of lives and liberties of the people of the state, where the trace of rule of law could hardly be found.  The government could have easily postponed the election according to the legal framework leading to the sustenance of President’s Rule in the state. This election also led to the unbelievable violence and group clashes in the state during that period. The government in the name of maintenance of the rule of law propelled an unprecedented terrorization process through its various repressive measures. The enormous police atrocities committed on the people of the state symbolized the existence of no rule in the state during the period of the movement. At the same time, the indiscriminate state atrocities over the agitationists and the indigenous people of Assam affected the prohibitory orders of the state. It was found that while maintaining law and order situation of the state, the government as the guardian of law itself became the violator of law during the period of the movement. State violence against the people of Assam during the movement was severe in which several people were killed for joining the movement.  This disturbed the normal functioning of the democratic politics affecting the rule of law of the state. We have already shown in our discussion about conceptualization of rule of law that the government is also not above it. But, the coerciveness of the state and the government shown particularly during the period of the movement threatened the very existence of the rule of law as the basic norm of democracy.

The young agitators also violated the law and order during the course of the movement at many times, however, the student movement through its independent and autonomous practice contributed towards intensification of the rule of law of the state. The main objectives of the student movement were to ensure benefits and rights of the people. Though the movement encouraged many anti-social elements which sullied the rule of law of the state by spreading unprecedented violence and terror amongst the people, particularly the linguistic and the religious minorities the movement was democratic and peaceful in nature. Therefore, through application of democratic means during the movement has contributed strengthening the movement rule of law in the state. The discussion also divulges that the adoption of the confrontational measures on the part of the government resulted in the malevolent stance of the leaders and supporters of the movement which made them more intimidating towards the religious and linguistic minorities during the movement. This also led them to violate the rule of law of the state during the period of the movement. However, it is essential to remember that such violation of the rule of law was made equally by both sides of the movement i. e. allies and adversaries of the movement. As has been shown in the discussion, a little sincerity of purpose, particularly on the part of the administration, could have maintained to solve sort of rule of law in the state. However, the student movement by ensuring the rights of the people strengthened mass support for the movement which ultimately strengthened democratic governance and thus, promoted to maintain rule of law in the later period.


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