Subdued Bihu festivities in Assam amid stir against Citizenship Bill
Protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill have cast a shadow on the three-day Assamese Magh or Bhogali Bihu festivities that began on Monday with agitators from several indigenous organisations urging people to keep the celebrations subdued.
Magh Bihu marks the end of the harvesting season in the month of Maagha. The three-day festival is celebrated with lavish feasts and bonfires.
The members of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), which is spearheading the agitation along with 100 other organisations, are observing a 24-hour hunger strike to register their dissent.
KMSS chief Akhil Gogoi said the protesters had decided to skip the celebrations this year.
He added that he would give the community feast, "Uruka", a miss and go without food throughout the day.
Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill (FACAAB) president Hiren Gohain, along with its convenor Manjit Mahanta, requested the public to burn copies of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 1955 and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the fire of the traditional "meji" (structures made of hay).
"We have to protect our traditions, but at the same time, we have to continue with our protests against the anti- constitutional bill," they said in a statement.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying all means to get the bill passed in the Rajya Sabha and therefore, "we must not forget that all our traditions and culture will be wiped out, if the bill is passed", the FACAAB statement said.
"We humbly appeal to people to not indulge in loud celebrations, but observe the festivities keeping in mind our indigenous traditions and culture," it added.
People were, however, seen flocking marketplaces in large numbers for last-minute shopping before the feasts.
"We cannot let the bill blot out our indigenous traditions. We will celebrate, but our opposition to the bill will continue," entrepreneur Nayanjyoti Sarmah, who had come to buy fish at the Kachari ghat on the banks of the Brahmaputra, said.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to grant nationality to non-Muslims who fled religious persecution in three neighbouring countries and entered India before December 31, 2014.
The legislation, which was passed by the Lok Sabha last week, is likely to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha during the budget session of Parliament.