Terror-stunned Assam prays for peace on Bihu

January 14th, 2009 - 11:10 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Jan 14 (IANS) As Pankaj Choudhury, a 27-year-old Guwahati based entrepreneur, celebrates Bhogali Bihu here Wednesday it is not feasting and enjoyment that is on his mind to mark the first festival of the year. But it is peace in his trouble-torn state that he is yearning for.And Pankaj is not the only one who feels this way. Many people in Assam that has already suffered two bomb blasts in the first few days of 2009 are desperately seeking peace in the state.

Three coordinated bomb blasts hit Guwahati, Assam’s main city, on Jan 1 followed by a blast again on Jan 9. A total of nine people were killed and many injured, several of whom are still recuperating in hospitals.

On Oct 30 last year, 81 people were killed and over 300 injured when 12 coordinated blasts rocked Guwahati and the western districts of Barpeta, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon.

Bhogali Bihu, akin to Makar Sankranti that is celebrated in many parts of the country, marks the end of the harvesting season. With the granaries full, the festival is marked by a lot of feasting.

A despondent Pankaj told IANS: “Bhogali bihu is all about feasting, meeting friends and relatives and merry-making. But Assam has turned into a terror hub. Every other day there is a bomb blast. No one is safe here. We want peace and an end to the three long decades of insurgency in Assam.”

Echoing his sentiments, national award winning Assamese singer Tarali Sarma told IANS that all Assam needs is peace and prosperity.

“Celebrating festivals holds no meaning if every other day a bomb blast greets us. We are all scared. We want security and peace and then only we can think about merry-making and enjoyment. As Bihu is a traditional festival, we are observing it, but in a sombre manner,” said Sarma.

“First bring back peace to Assam, then only will we be able to think about fun and festivities. Death and destruction have marred the very growth of the state. I want the government to ensure the security of the civilians,” said poet Shiva Prasad Bora, who is based in Baithalangso in Karbi Anglong district of the state.

The sense of hopelessness among the people is
palpable as the usual enthusiasm of the festival is missing in the market places in the state.

“The enthusiasm to celebrate the festival is missing this time. Usually Bihu season brings huge profits to business houses across the state. But terror has killed the celebratory mood this time,” said M. Jalan, owner of Sohum Shoppe, a chain of malls in Guwahati.

On Bhogali Bihu, which comes from the Assamese word bhog that means eating and enjoyment, people across Assam celebrate by feasting on various traditional delicacies and merry-making.

Some of the mouth watering delicacies served during Bihu includes, rice cakes like Til Pitha, Ghila Pitha, Xutuli Pitha, Sunga Pitha and Tekeli Pitha, sweet snacks like Tilor Laru, Narikolor Laru and rice-based snacks Bora saul, Komal Saul, Chira, Muri and Akhoi served with Doi (curd) and Gur (jaggery).

The day before Bhogali Bihu is called Uruka, which is marked by community feasting in makeshift cottages called Bhelaghar.

On Bihu day, early in the morning family members and friends gather near the Meji - a traditional V shaped structure made out of hay from the harvested fields, and burn it and offer their prayers to the fire to mark the end of the harvesting season. Several traditional games like buffalo-fight and cock-fight are organised in villages during the day.

However, with the passage of time, many a traditional aspect related to Bihu has taken a backseat.

“We hope this Bihu will bring much-needed peace in Assam,” said national award winner filmmaker Gautam Bora.

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