Guwahati: As Assam results started emerging on Sunday, one constituency in lower Assam, Chenga, suddenly piqued everyone’s interest. After a few rounds, it was becoming clear that AIUDF was all set to take the seat to wrestle the seat from Congress’ Sukur Ali Ahmed, a four-time MLA and a local heavyweight. But more than the party, it was the candidate who caught everyone’s attention. Until two years ago, Ashraful Hussain was a regular person pursuing a degree from India’s largest open university: the Indira Gandhi National Open University.
As of today, he is one of the 126 MLAs elected by Assam’s electorate.
The journey of Ashraful Hussain, 28, the son of a farmer, from a village in Barpeta to the legislative assembly, has been anything but smooth. He was born in Haripur village (on the banks of River Brahmaputra) in the Barpeta district and is the son of a farmer.
As a Bengali, Ashraful Hussain always felt marginalised in a society where language and identity are often intertwined. For many, Assam and Assamese are seen as the same. But traditionally, this has worked against the large Bengali population of Assam, especially the Bengali Muslims of lower Assam.
It was this feeling of being marginalised that led Hussain to join Satra Mukti Sangram Samiti (SMSS), the student wing of Akhil Gogoi’s Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) during his IGNOU days.
Ashraful Hussain: From poetry to politics
His search for political representation also found space in “Miya poetry” — a tool of resistance, confrontation and empowerment that dates back decades — one that found extreme popularity in the last decade due to a young crop of poets, including Ashraful Hussain.
But ‘Miyan’ poetry also caused a deep sense of anger among a section of the Assamese-speaking people. In July 2019, the Assam Police filed a case against ten people, mostly Bengali Muslim poets and activists, following a poem on citizenship problems faced by sections of the state population written by Kazi Sharowar Hussein.
“The accused person’s intention is to depict a picture of Assamese people as xenophobic in the eyes of the whole world, which [is] a serious threat to the Assamese people, as well as, towards the national security and harmonious social atmosphere,” said the complainant Pranabjit Doloi.
Hussain was among the many who extended help to people facing difficulties during the NRC process, raised his voice for those left out of the NRC.
During the run-up to the elections, in an interview with Eastmojo, Ashraful Hussain had expressed his zeal to solve the problems of people living in the char (river bank) areas.
“They face and fight floods and erosion every year. Besides that, there is poverty and many other problems. Over and above, they do not have land pattas,” he said.
“If I win the election, I am definitely going to fight on behalf of the people. Their land priority will be a top priority for us,” he had said.
In his debut fight, Ashraful Hussain defeated four-time Congress MLA Sukur Ali Ahmed. He won with a margin of 54,910 votes, and got 74,110 votes while his nearest opponent Rabiul Hussain of AGP got 23,200 votes.
The win for Ashraful Hussain is already his biggest achievement in a young and difficult life. What he does next for his constituency and the Bengali Muslims remains to be seen.