Protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill raged on in Assam on Tuesday amid 'Bhogali Bihu' celebrations as copies of the legislation were burnt symbolically.
There was no let up in the protests during the traditional 'Meji-Bhelaghar fire' in the morning where people usually pray for a bright future for the state and a good harvest for farmers in the coming year.
Bhogali Bihu is the harvesting festival in Assam which is preceded by Uruka -- the night of feast and merrymaking on Bihu's eve. The community meal is cooked inside the 'Bhelaghars' -- made of bamboo, thatch, dry leaves and wood -- which is set on fire the following day on 'Makar Sankranti' with religious rituals.
Copies of the bill were burnt at senior advocate Arup Borbora's house here on 'Uruka' yesterday night by eminent litterateur Hiren Gohain and senior journalist Manjit Mahanta against whom the state government has filed a sedition case.
International award winning film director Jahnu Barua, popular singer Pulak Banerjee, 'Amar Asom' newspaper editor Prasanta Rajguru, political commentator Haidar Hussain, senior advocates Hafeez Rashid Chaudhary and Nekibur Zaman, among many others joined the protests.
The bill threatens the existence of the Assamese people, they said, and vowed to continue their agitation for the "protection of Assamese people, their land, language, culture and heritage".
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) leader Akhil Gogoi, one of the leaders of the anti-Bill protest movement and against whom sedition case was also filed along with Gohain and Mahanta, went on a 24-hour hunger strike yesterday on Uruka day.
The Assam Police on January 10 filed sedition cases against litterateur Gohain, RTI activist Akhil Gogoi and senior journalist Manjit Mahanta for their comments on the citizenship bill.
They were booked by the Assam Police for their remarks against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill at an event three days ago, even as the state witnesses protest against the legislation.
Gogoi stayed away from the traditional Bihu feasting yesterday as the state is facing "trying times with the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8".
Responding to Gogoi's appeal, members of the 70 indigenous organisations allied to KMSS were seen this morning burning copies of the Bill on the 'Meji fire' to register their opposition to the Bill and praying that the "evils of the Bill are burnt in the fire" as they offered their obeisance to the Sun god for a good harvest in the coming year.
Prominent journalists, veteran Assamese film actors, members of the Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) and other similar organisations were also seen burning copies of the Bill in the 'Meji fire' across the state, including Guwahati.