CAA copies burnt in Assam's Bhogali Bihu fires

CAA copies burnt in the 'meji' fire of Assam's Bhogali Bihu

Activists of Nagaon district unit of AASU burnt the CAA and shouted slogans like CAA 'ami namanu' (we don't accept CAA) and 'Joi Aai Asom' (hail mother Asom)

 Members of All Assam Students Union burning the copies of Citizenship (Amendment) Act in the fire of Meji, traditional bonfire during Bhogali Bihu celebration in Nagaon district in Assam. (Photo by Anuwar Ali Hazarika)

The Bhogali Bihu to Assamese is what pongal is to Tamils and Lohri to Punjabis---fun and feasting equally integral.

The post-harvest festival in Assam this year, however, became a platform to express anger and fear over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act with many on Wednesday morning burning copies of the amended citizenship law in the meji, the traditional bonfire lit as part of the annual celebrations.

Clad in traditional gamosa, Assamese residents bathed in rivers and ponds and set fire to the meji with copies of the act in many parts of the state and prayed for destruction of evil and welfare of all. "Since we burn the meji every year with prayers to end all evils, we decided to burn the CAA too as it will destroy our identity as Assamese. If large number of Hindu Bangladeshis are given citizenship through this act, Assamese people will become minority. This will endanger our traditional festivals like Bhogali Bihu too," said Dibyajyoti Neog, a resident of Juria in central Assam's Nagaon district. 

The influential All Assam Students' Union (AASU), leading the anti-CAA protests across Assam had appealed to the people of Assam to burn CAA copies in the meji to register protests against the bill and take a pledge against BJP ahead of next year's Assembly elections. 

Seven persons including five protesters died in police firing and violent protests in Assam last month soon after the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 was passed by the Parliament. The government clamped curfew, shut down the internet and arrested hundreds of protesters to control the situation.

Peaceful agitation against the act still continues while many pinned hope on the Supreme Court's hearing on January 22 on the petitions filed against the CAA.

"Bhogali Bihu is all about fun, food and merry making. But it is unfortunate that Assamese people have to protest even on this day to protect their identity. The Narendra Modi government is so adament and arrogant that they don't listen to people's protests even as they won elections in 2014 and 2016 (Assembly polls) with the promise to protect identity of the Assamese people. So now we have no option but to keep protesting and take a call in the 2021 Assembly elections," AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi told reporters after burning copies of the CAA in a Bhogali Bihu function in Goalpara in western Assam on Wednesday morning.

AASU said they were in talks with many citizens to give shape to a new political party in order to offer the people of Assam an alternative in the next Assembly polls. 

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