A 27-year-old social activist from Assam, Ashraful Hussain, successfully contested the 2021 assembly elections from the Chenga constituency to become the youngest legislator in the state. Hussain was born in Haripur village in the riverine area of Assam’s Barpeta district. He grew up in a community of Bengal-origin Muslims—or Miya Muslims—and witnessed first-hand the struggle for citizenship faced by his people, especially while the government updated of the National Register of Citizens in the state. The process, which requires residents to prove their citizenship, stripped lakhs of Assamese residents of their rights.
Hussain has been part of a literary movement of Miya poetry in the state, in which poets highlight the discrimination and existential fears of the Miya Muslim community. The poets’ assertion of their Miya identity and language prompted backlash, including police complaints accusing them of defaming the Assamese people, and prominent intellectuals claiming that the poems insulted the Assamese language. At the time of his election to the state assembly, Hussain had three cases pending against him for his poetry.
Hussain won the Chenga constituency on a ticket from the All India United Democratic Front, and secured 58.3 percent of the votes, defeating Rabiul Hussain and Sukur Ali Ahmed from the Asom Gana Parishad and the Congress, respectively. After the results, Kimi Colney, a reporting fellow with The Caravan, spoke to him about his entry into politics, his poetry and what he seeks to achieve as a member of Assam’s new legislative assembly.