Yearender 2020: Assam might have missed its Bohag Bihu celebration amidst the global pandemic of coronavirus, the state still witnessed major twists and turns in 2020.
From politics to its borders, from the glitz of Filmfare Awards to the promises of elections, from the fires of Baghjan to the death of Assam’s most favourite chief minister and many more, the state almost had a rollercoaster ride in the outgoing year.
While the year 2020 started with the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests continuing from last December, the issue of citizenship once again popped up by the end of the year as the state stared at an assembly poll.
Though 2020 started normally enough, life in Assam quickly turned into an out-of-normal experience like the rest of the world due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The social congregation, celebrations and other festivals took a backseat as people started to maintain social distancing, while the world went into an indefinite lockdown to curb the damage induced by the Wuhan-originated Coronavirus.
Assam had to compromise with its most loved Bohag Bihu celebration.
Almost no place has been spared – and no one. The virus that first emerged almost a year ago, swept across the world in 2020, leaving havoc in its wake. More than any event in memory, the pandemic has been a global event. At year’s end, promising vaccines offered a glimmer of hope amid a cresting second wave of contagion.
For several weeks following the nationwide strict lockdown, instances of labourers walking for days tired and hungry were witnessed all over the country. Many took trucks, tempos and other vehicles, often paying every penny they had earned. However, not everyone reached home. Some dies of exhaustion, others in repeated accidents on highways. Estimates said forceful lockdown devastated the livelihood of over 40 million migrant workers, who play a pivotal role in agriculture and industrial sectors. Many working outside the state started to return for good.
The catastrophe did not end here as the state had to lose one of its tallest politicians to COVID-19. With the demise of former chief minister Tarun Gogoi, the state lost a unifying leader. Gogoi was a treasure for the Congress and was celebrated for his ability to retain his sanity amid smart politics and keeping the grand old party well-coordinated with others.
Assam also recorded 1000 other deaths due to Covid 19 in 2020.
Amid the pandemic creating havoc, the state had to face another disaster with floods. The Assam floods in July affected almost 20 lakh people and killed over 110. In Kaziranga National Park too, over 137 animals including 14 one-horned rhinos have died during the floods this season.
While the state administration was battling massive floods and the COVID-19 looming over the state, Oil India Limited’s oil well at Baghjan in Tinsukia district, which started to leak on May 27, caught fire on June 9. People in the region had to endure pandemic, floods as well as the impacts of the oil well fire.
Apart from causing devastation and damaging agricultural land, the oil leakage has impacted nearby water bodies including the Mahuri-Motapung Beel. However, after 172 days of a disastrous blowout, the flame atop the Baghjan Well no 5 was successfully doused. In the process of dousing the fire, two firefighters and an electrical engineer lost their lives.
But not all was discouraging for Assam in 2020. The year also saw the emergence of new leadership in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) and the rise of student leaders.
Poll fever gripped Assam with BTR polls. Breaking the walls of Hagrama Mohilary’s fort, former Bodo student leader turned politician Pramod Boro became the new BTR chief.
To the positives, all factions of one of the dreaded militant outfits of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) surrendered and joined the peace process this year too.
The state also witnessed the spirit of ‘regionalism’ making noise all over the region with several regional political parties being formed. The biggest student groups of the state like All Assam Students’ Union and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad floated their own regional party and student leader Lurinjyoti Gogoi emerged as the new ‘avatar’ of politics of regionalism.
However, for peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, the passing year was not ideal as he spent the whole year behind the bars. He was arrested last December during the anti CAA protests.
The topic of infiltration and citizenship continued to linger throughout the year in Assam with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accrod issue remained unresolved.