Monday, 30th October 2017

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Protesters in Assam burn citizen bill copies in bihu bonfire

Instead of usual celebration, hunger strikes and anti-government slogans marked the day

By Abdul Gani in Guwahati
  • Published 17.01.19, 12:03 AM
  • Updated 17.01.19, 12:56 PM
  • 2 mins read
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A meji being burnt in Tezpur Picture by UB Photos

Bhogali Bihu celebrations were marked by hunger strikes and protests across Assam against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

A number of activists, including KMSS adviser Akhil Gogoi and others, staged hunger strikes on uruka while many burnt copies of the bill with mejis.

The harvest festival, otherwise, was celebrated with fanfare and feast, this time marked with anti-government slogans all around.

Akhil, who led the protest staging a 24-hour hunger strike, said they would carry forward the agitation against the “anti-Assam” bill.

“This is very unfortunate that instead of celebrating Bihu with family members, we are here staging hunger strike. We have no options left. We, Assamese people and the state, are facing a huge crisis at the moment. So, I would urge all the people to stand united and oppose the bill,” said Akhil.

The bill, which has already been passed in the Lok Sabha, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant Indian nationality to people from minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 11 even if they do not possess any proper document and those who came here till December 31, 2014.

Large sections of people in Assam and other northeastern states have been protesting against the bill, saying it is against the secular characteristics of the Constitution and it would nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after 1971 should be deported.

Akhil Gogoi and other KMSS activists observe a hunger strike in Guwahati
Akhil Gogoi and other KMSS activists observe a hunger strike in Guwahati Picture by UB Photos

Akhil also thanked the people who wholeheartedly supported his cause.

Altogether eight activists from different organisations joined Akhil in the fast.

Apart from that, activists of Asom Chatro Yuva Sanmilan (ACYS) also staged hunger strikes at Sivasagar and Duliajan in Upper Assam. Its general secretary, Madhurjya Baruah, said 15 activists joined the fast.

Besides, people in different places burnt the dummy copies of the bill in morning with meji, a traditional structure made of bamboo and straw which is burnt on the morning Bihu.

“We burnt the dummy copy of the bill as a mark of protest against the government during Bihu,” said Manjit Mahanta, journalist-cum-activist, who has been a frontrunner in opposing the bill. Mahanta has also been charged with sedition by police. Among others, former Gauhati University professor Hiren Gohain, filmmaker Jahnu Barua, musicians Pulak Banerjee and Ramen Choudhury, senior journalists Haidar Hussain and Prasanta Rajguru, senior advocates Arup Borbora and H.R.A. Choudhury were present at the protest.

Similar protests were carried out across the state.