Barpeta: Situated on the floodplains of Beki and Brahmaputra in Barpeta district of lower Assam, Jania constituency is ravaged by floods every year. Ashraful Islam, a young Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) activist, started working with marginalised sections and peasants in the constituency years ago. When Akhil Gogoi and other KMSS comrades announced Raijor Dal last year, he became one of the State-level secretaries and a candidate from Jania constituency in Assam. He is perhaps the only candidate in the state to have refused security cover for himself from the State Election Commission.
EastMojo’s consulting editor Anupam Chakravartty caught up with Islam as his election campaign comes to a close on Saturday. Excerpts of the interview…
Anupam: Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where did you grow up? How was your experience as a child and then as a young adult? Also, if you can shed some light on your training and education.
Ashraful: I was born in Sonapur village situated in Baliguri of Jonia district. Being from a riverine area, I grew up amidst resilience of hardy people and the complete apathy of various political parties towards the region.
Since my high school days, I was associated with Students’ Federation of India and took an active part in various socio-political activities. In 2005, I secured eighth position in the humanities during Higher Secondary Exams from Barpeta’s Madhav Choudhury College. While studying at Gauhati University, I was actively engaged with Gauhati University Minority Students’ Welfare Forum and PFD. I have worked as an Executive President of Satro Mukti Sangram Samiti for a number of years. Recently I was selected as the Secretary of the newly formed party Raijor Dal under the initiative of KMSS.
I have dedicated my life to the betterment of society. I joined KMSS with the dream of eventually bringing a change to the political system. I have been at the forefront of various movements by SMSS. At present, I am working as a loyal activist and worker of Raijor Dal. My eligibility as the proposed candidate of Jania has been decided by the party and the people of Jania.
Anupam: You have been a KMSS activist. The situation became critical during the anti-CAA agitation. A new outfit was born and now you are contesting on a Raijor Dal ticket. How did you cope up with this dynamic scenario? What is the impact of not having an alliance with Mahajot led by Congress with AIUDF as its partners?
Ashraful: Jania is a Muslim majority constituency. For years, political parties like Congress- AIUDF have manipulated the emotions and insecurities of this community and used them as a vote bank. But these parties have failed in addressing the fundamental problems of the community. People in Jania continue to lag behind on parameters of socio-economic and educational indicators.
I believe that the people of the constituency also want a change and will accept Akhil Gogoi-led Raijor Dal wholeheartedly. I believe that Raijor Dal under Akhil Gogoi will provide an alternative to people across caste, community, language, religion and work for their equal rights, dignity and development. It will also ensure a solution to the citizenship concerns of the minority community.
Anupam: Jania is one of the most flood prone constituencies in Assam. If voted to power, what plans to do you have for the people of this constituency when it comes to floods?
Ashraful: Almost the entire constituency is flood-prone. We want to ensure the services are extended to these areas even during peak of the floods. Ensuring proper relief and rehabilitation is one of our most important goals. We also want to employ the best of the scientific methods, conduct proper research to prevent massive erosion from taking place in various parts of Jania.
Anupam: Please list some of the main points from your campaign. Your vision for a change in your constituency.
Ashraful: For the last ten years, I have tried to work selflessly for the society. Amongst the people of Jania, I have found a place as an educated, aware and revolutionary youth voice. The people have also bestowed their love and trust in me. I will try my level best to go amongst the people with these fundamental issues that impact their everyday lives.
A large section of our people faced uncertainty when they were declared as doubtful voters. Close to 4000 people here have been illegally deemed as doubtful voters by the current dispensation. We will continue offer legal support and also divert my salary to meet their legal expenses.
A portion of the funds for MLA will be diverted to the marginalised sections of the society especially towards education girl child. If elected to power, I will not take personal security officers or VIP facilities so that I am always with the people of the constituency, not distanced from them.