The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihu magic takes over Assam
- plea for Peace and identity Amid festive fervour

Guwahati, April 14: The two major issues confronting Assam — elusive peace and a threat to identity — held centrestage this morning, even as the strains of pepa and beat of dhol filled the air to mark the beginning of Rongali Bihu festivities.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, addressing the crowd of revellers at the Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani at Latasil playground, appealed for lasting peace.

On the other hand, All Assam Students Union (AASU) adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya dwelt on the crisis being faced by the indigenous population because of unabated influx, at the Judges Field Bihu function.

Both venues attracted a large number of people.

“I hope that Bihu, which is the lifeline of the people of Assam, brings an end to violence and ushers in an era of peace and prosperity by uniting all the communities and tribes inhabiting the state,” Gogoi said. He was speaking at the inaugural function of the 56-year-old Bihu Sanmilani, the oldest in the state, setting the mood for the day.

Mohini Rabha, widow of Kalaguru Bishnu Rabha, hoisted the Bihu flag at Latasil playground.

Though cultural icon Bhupen Hazarika could not attend the Bihu function owing to ill health, the sanmilani announced that it would set up a statue of the maestro at a junction near Gauhati High Court.

At Judges Field, Bhattacharyya cautioned the people of Assam about the threat posed by unabated influx. “As the problem of illegal infiltration has reached alarming levels, the people of Assam are left with two options. Either we have to surrender before the Bangladeshis, or all the ethnic communities will have to take an united stand to protect our identity,” he said. Litterateur Rong Bong Terang hoisted the flag at the celebrations of the silver jubilee year of AASU-organised Bihu function. The students union also felicitated eight eminent personalities — Atulananda Goswami, Dharani Barman, Katindra Swargiyari, Garima Hazarika, Rongini Doimari, Ratul Gogoi, Rabijita Gogoi and Saila Bala Baruah — on the occasion.

As young women clad in mekhela chador swayed to the rhythm of Bihu songs, people from all walks of life, including film personalities Biju Phukan and Pranjal Saikia, got together at Judges Field to celebrate the spring festival.

Towards the evening, people thronged Bihu pandals to enjoy performances by popular stage artistes. The cultural extravaganza will continue for the next three days.

The first day of the festivities was marked by tight security arrangements, as Ulfa had called for sombre and austere celebrations as a mark of solidarity with the wives of Ulfa leaders who went missing in the Bhutan operations in 2003.

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