| Devotees offer prayers to the sun god on the banks of the Bhogdoi river in Jorhat. Picture by UB Photos |
Jorhat, Nov. 19: The 12-hour Upper Assam strike called by the Paresh Barua group of Ulfa today failed to dampen the Chhath spirit here. A large number of devotees turned up on riverbanks since early afternoon to pray to the sun god amid tight security.
Though the strike was near total, with normal life paralysed in the five Upper Assam districts, fruit and vegetable markets stayed open in areas inhabited by Hindi-speaking people to enable them to buy the puja essentials. Boat services between Neemati ghat here and Majuli also remained suspended.
In Tinsukia district, which has a sizeable Hindi-speaking population, fruit and vegetable markets and roadside shops on GNB road stayed open since morning. In the afternoon, thousands of people thronged Napukhuri, Devipukhuri, Guizanghat and Railway colony pukhuri in the town to offer prayers.
“The bandh failed to dampen the festive spirit of the devotees, with people of all ages coming out in large numbers to the ghats to offer prayers,” said Sanjay Singh, a ward member of Tinsukia Municipal Board and also a member of the Chhath Puja organising committee. He said devotees were visiting riverbanks or large ponds in large numbers in other areas of the district too.
Though generally celebrated by people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, other communities have also started observing Chhath.
Assam parliamentary secretary for home Rana Goswami visited the Bhogdoi river ghat here this afternoon and inaugurated the celebrations organised by Hindustani Nabayuvak Samaj, a socio-cultural organisation.
Goswami, while offering his best wishes to the people on the occasion, said it was heartening to know that despite the strike, people were coming out in large numbers across the state to celebrate the festival. “Our government is determined to provide security to all sections of society and is taking all necessary steps to maintain peace and tranquillity,” Goswami, who is also the Jorhat MLA, told The Telegraph.
Devotees came out in large numbers in Dibrugarh and Sivasagar districts too.
Deputy inspector-general of police (eastern range) P.C. Saikia told this correspondent today that the celebrations were proceeding peacefully in all the five Upper Assam districts with no reports of any untoward incident.
Saikia said special security measures had been initiated to ensure that the festival was observed peacefully in view of earlier instances of Ulfa targeting Hindi-speaking people in Upper Assam.
The Paresh Barua group of Ulfa, on the other hand, in a statement issued this evening, “thanked” the people of Upper Assam for making the strike a success.
The outfit had called the strike in protest against the killing of one its cadres and two innocent people last week in an encounter on a chapori near Majuli island.