Festival of Feast to be Marked With Fast Protesting Citizenship Bill in Assam

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Many in the State are going on a fast in protest against Citizenship Bill in Assam.

Several people including prominent RTI activist Akhil Gogoi are on a hunger strike from Monday opposing the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Abdul Gani | Caravan Daily

GUWAHATI — Bhogali Bihu, a festival of feast, one of the most important festivals in Assam, is being marked with fast this time. Number of protestors including prominent RTI activist Akhil Gogoi have started hunger strike from Monday opposing the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Monday night is celebrated as Urukua when friends, neighbours and relatives get together and have community feast.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which has already been passed in the Lok Sabha endorses citizenship for the non-Muslim minorities from the neighbouring countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have faced religious persecution.  

Akhil Gogoi, who has been vocal against the bill, along with other activists has started his 24-hour hunger strike on Bihu eve in Guwahati. His hunger strike on the Uruka day will continue till tomorrow for almost 24 hours till the ‘Mejhi’ (traditional structure made with bamboo and straw which is burnt in the morning of Bihu) is burnt on the next day.

“Let’s not forget that the bill (Citizenship Amendment Bill) is in the verge of passing. We must continue this agitation till the bill is scrapped. I urge the people of the state let’s observe the Bihu this time in different way to make our voice even stronger against the bill,” said Gogoi who is also the advisor of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), an influential peasants’ organization.

He also urged the people to burn the dummy copy of the bill in the morning on the Bihu day also to hoise Gamusa as a mark to state that Assamese identity is first.

Other members of 70 odd organizations who have been opposing the bill said that they will also stage hunger strike during Bihu to mark their opposition to the Citizenship Bill.

“Let the people celebrate Bihu but we appeal to the people of Assam not to forget the main issue at the moment. We must not forget about opposing the bill. I will stage hunger strike at Sivasagar on the Uruka day. Some of members will do the same in different places across the state,” said Madhurjya Baruah, an advocate and general secretary of Axom Chatro Yuva Sanmilan, an organization opposing the bill.

Assam and the entire northeast have witnessed wide protest in opposition to the bill. The protestors say that they can’t accept a bill which brings division among the illegal citizens in the line of religion.

They support the cut off date set by the Assam Accord which is March 25 of 1971 irrespective of religion, caste and creed. Assam Accord was signed in 1985 after a six-year long agitation to drive out all the illegal citizens from Assam.

North East Students’ Organization (NESO), the umbrella body of all the major students’ associations of the region also called 11-hour shutdown on January 8 which got immense support from all the corners of the region.

“This is against the constitution of India. We don’t want any more illegal foreigners. This is not a dumping ground. We warn the Centre and the BJP government not to play politics with the people of northeast,” said NESO advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya.

Meanwhile, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the BJP ally which recently broke the alliance opposing the bill, has also planned to start month long agitation across the state. Apart from that Assam’s popular musician Zubeen Garg has written a letter to the Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to oppose the bill. Zubeen, often known for his outspoken attitude and political statements, has also vowed to return the fee he took from BJP to sing a promotional song for BJP before the elections.

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