Low-key celebrations of Bhogali, people burn CAA in mejis

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HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Jan 16: Protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) marked the Bhogali Bihu festivities in Assam as millions of people burnt the copies of CAA in mejis (bonfire) in different parts of the state on Wednesday.

Meji (structures made of bamboo, hay and wood) were lit for the ceremonial conclusion harvesting season and prayer to the God of fire. Bhogali Bihu also known as Magh Bihu is celebrated at the end of the harvesting season.

This year’s festival was marked by the voice of opposition of the Assamese people who burned CAA copies in the mejis. Other placards and banners were also in display at different places around the state which read “CAA ami namanu” (we will not accept CAA), “CAA batil koriboi lagibo” (CAA must be repealed) and “Jai Aai Asom” (Glory to Mother Assam).

All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Asom Jatiyabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), Assam Nagarik Mancha and 30 other ethnic groups urged the people to continue the protests during the festivities. “We will celebrate our festivals but will not stay away from staging our opposition to the CAA. CAA is a threat to the indigenous people of Assam and all the northeast states. So, we will continue doing that,” AASU chief adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya said in a press statement ahead of the festival.

AASU activists burnt copies of the Act outside their offices across the state and students of the Cotton University, prominent advocate Arup Borbora and civil society members Ajit Kumar 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.

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.

In addition, pictures of BJP leaders were stuck to the bonfires. People also wore ‘gamosa’ (traditional woven towels) and badges with “Say No to CAA” inscribed on them. On the night of Uruka, makeshift huts (bhelaghar or mejighar) are erected where the community feast takes place. This time the theme of most of the ‘bhelaghars’ was CAA. CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh fleeing persecution there. (With agencies input)

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