A harmony march, started as a show of unity among different communities in Assam after the riots following the Babri Masjid demolition, and turned into an annual event, entered its 25th year on Sunday.
While rest of Assam was busy celebrating the post-harvest festival of Magh Bihu, hundreds gathered at Hajo, 24km west of Guwahati, to take part in Samanway Sobha Jatra and Monikut Festival.
The procession and festival, at the small town considered Assam’s ‘oasis of communal harmony’ is symbolic of how residents of this sacred place have learnt to live in peace.
Hajo is home to Hayagrib Madhab temple, a four-century-old popular Vishnu shrine. The area is also considered holy by some Buddhists who believe Buddha attained ‘Nirvana’ here.
The Powa Mecca mosque, constructed over 350 years ago, is located few kilometres away. It is believed the structure was made using soil brought from Mecca, Islam’s most sacred site.
“The procession started in January 1993 to show unity among followers of different faiths in Hajo after communal riots spread across India following demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992,” Siba Prasad Sarma, ‘doloi’ (chief priest) of Hayagrib Madhab temple said.
The move initiated by the local unit of All Assam Students Union (AASU) has continued uninterrupted annually on the first day of Magh month, according to Assamese calendar.
“Unlike other places, communal harmony has been a trademark of Hajo for centuries and the annual procession has helped reinforce it,” said Dr Painuruddin Ahmed, former president of Powa Mecca mosque committee.
Like every year, on Sunday too, hundreds started the procession from near the Powa Mecca mosque and went till Hayagrib Madhab temple where it culminated in the festival.
“Since next year will be the silver jubilee celebrations, we plan to organise it on a much larger scale so that the message of peace spreads further,” said Sarma.
He urged the state government to construct a ropeway connecting both religious sites, located six kilometers apart, to reduce distance and also strengthen communal ties further.