Controversy erupts over stitching Assamese, Bengali scarves together

Guwahati: A controversy erupted over the cutting of Assamese and Bengali scarves into half and stitching them together for felicitating guests at a literary body’s event.

Organisers said it was done to symbolise harmony between the two communities, while many criticised the act, claiming it was an insult to the Assamese ‘gamosa’, and such acts will, in fact, increase the divide.

The Bangla Sahitya Sabha, Assam, (BSSA) used the stitched scarves to honour guests at its first state-level conference held here on Sunday. Notable among the attendees was state Education Minister Ranoj Pegu.

One half of the scarf was an Assamese ‘gamosa’ with a red border on a white cloth, while the other half was of red-and-white checked pattern, used by the Bengali community.

The Assamese ‘gamosa’ has received the coveted Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the Centre in December last year.

Protests against the act were held in various parts of the state including state capital Guwahati, Nagaon, Dibrugarh, Golaghat and Bongaigaon by organisations such as Jatiya Yuba Shakti (JYS), the youth wing of Assam Jatiya Parishad, All Assam Moran Students Union and Bir Lachit Sena.

JYS members demanded an unconditional public apology from Pegu and other government officials who had attended the event.

Warning the organisers to refrain from “distorting the gamosa in the future”, they contended that cutting the gamosa was an insult to the Assamese community as it holds a special position for them.

They lined up along the streets near Commerce College point and displayed placards against the act.

“Will pasting together pages of holy books of two religions bring the people adhering to the two faiths closer or will stitching flags of two countries bring about better relations between those nations?” JYS vice-president Saidul Haque said.

Pegu had said on Sunday that the controversy was “unnecessary” as BSSA had sewn the two pieces of cloths as a “goodwill gesture” as they identify themselves as Bengalis of Assam.

Trinamool Congress state president Ripun Bora, addressing a press conference, however, criticised the concept and said the act of cutting the two scarves was an insult to both the communities.

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“We don’t think the act of sewing together two pieces of cloths can actually lead to communal harmony. Assamese and Bengali communities have been living in perfect harmony in the state for long. Contrary to the organisers’ claim that they wanted to strengthen the ties between the two communities, such acts will weaken the relations,” he added.

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