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September 21, 2020

Assam Celebrates Bhogali Bihu by Burning CAA Copies in Bonfires

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Guwahati: People celebrating harvest festival ‘Bhogali Bihu’, also called ‘Magh Bihu’, in Assam on Wednesday burnt copies of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in bonfires of ‘mejis’ lit on the occasion.

Protests against the Act have been raging in the state since it was passed in the Parliament in December last year.

The ‘mejis’ (structures made of bamboo, hay and wood) were lit before sunrise and homemade ‘larus’ (a type of sweet) and ‘pithas’ (rice cakes) offered to the almighty.

Organisations protesting the CAA such as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Assam Nagarik Mancha and civil society members had given a call to burn the copies of the Act during the festival.

AASU activists burnt copies of the Act outside their offices across the state and students of the Cotton University, prominent advocate Arup Borobora and civil society members Ajit Bhuyan and Haidar Hussain also did the same.

The Act was also the theme of several ‘Bhelaghars’, temporary hay structures where community feasts ‘Uruka’ were held on the eve of the ‘Rongali Bihu’, on Tuesday.

Two such ‘Bhelaghars’ in Nagaon district stood out.

A ‘Bhelaghar’ in Kekuragaon in Amsoi area of the district depicted a woman holding a container over her head.

Organisers said the woman was depicted as ‘Mother Assam’ and the container the “burden” of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

Another ‘Bhelaghar’ at Bangthai in Bebejia area was constructed in the shape of Assam’s map with a figure of Ahom general Lachit Barphukhan, who had defeated the Mughals at the Battle of Saraighat, on it.

Slogans in Assamese such as ‘CAA aami namanu’ (We do not accept CAA), ‘CAA batil koriboi lagibo’ (CAA must be repealed) and ‘Jai Aai Asom’ (Glory to Mother Assam) were written on ‘Bhelaghars’ across the state.

Attendees were seen discussing the Act in community feasts ‘Uruka’ held on Tuesday.

People seemed less enthusiastic about celebrating the festival as five people were killed allegedly due to police firing during anti-CAA protests in the state in December last year.

Preparations for ‘Bhogali Bihu’ were low-key this year as sales for essentials required for the festival dipped and traders selling the items put up anti-CAA posters outside their shops.

Many buyers were also seen wearing ‘gamosas’ (traditional handwoven towels) and badges with ‘Say No to CAA’ inscribed on them.

CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh fleeing persecution there.

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