BAKSA: With Assam gearing up for ‘Bhogali Bihu’ — the festival of feasts and merrymaking — shoppers are thronging the markets amid preparations.
However, the residents of a remote village in the state’s Kekerikuchi village of Assam’s have not celebrated this festival for 23 years. On the day Assam celebrates Bihu with the usual song, dance, and merry-making, you are likely to witness a sombre silence in this village.
A walk down the lanes of history reveals why the villagers of this village have forsaken the festival that every Assamese looks forward to with bated breath.
It was 13 January, 1998. At 8:10 PM, people in the village were busy with their preparations for Bihu. Traditional snacks (ladu, peetha etc al) were being made, and a mood of happiness and camaraderie prevailed.
In the midst of the celebration, a group of unidentified men descended on the village and started raining bullets on the hapless villagers. On that fateful night, as many as 17 villagers fell prey to the gunfire and the shroud of death hung over the village. The AGP Government — which was in power back then — announced an ex gratia of Rs. 1 lakh to the families of the deceased, but the scars of that day have remained fresh in the minds of the villagers. To this day, the villagers — many of whom recall the ‘secret killing’ incident with absolute terror — have refrained from celebrating Bihu.
What the villagers do instead is fast a day prior to Bihu and light a thousand ‘diyas’ to commemorate the ‘village martyrs.’
The children of this village do not know what it is like to partake in the ‘uruka’ feast or sit by the bonfire of ‘meji’. “Many of the people of our village were gunned down 23 years ago; even though I have grown up in this village, I have never seen anybody celebrating Bihu. You will never see Bihu in our village,” a young girl on the cusp of womanhood who was born after the tragic incident, told media persons.
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