Gamosa to Joi Aai Asom, the signs of pride that shaped Assam protests

The gamosa, traditionally offered to elders and guests as a mark of respect and honour by Assamese people was used by the protestors to assert their identity. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Assamese gamosa and the salutation Joi Aai Asom along with the cry ‘Ho! Ho!’ have become the symbol of the protests raging the state against the amended Citizenship Act.

The gamosa, a white and red patterned cotton handwoven fabric, is traditionally offered to elders and guests as a mark of respect and honour by Assamese people. It is being used by the protestors to assert their identity, which they claim has been threatened by the Act.

“The cultural and linguistic identity of indigenous people of the state are at stake and we cannot tolerate this. We are carrying the gamosa which reflects our pride in our culture and very existence,” said Arunima Barua, an 18-year old student of a city college.

Many students carried the gamosa with slogans like No CAB, Withdraw CAB, Assam is not a dumping ground. Many even tied the modest piece of cloth around their heads as turbans.

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The cries of Joi Aai Asom (Hail Mother Assam) rent the air as hordes of protestors come out on the streets or march in processions to express their ire against the Act.

“The future of our motherland is being threatened and we have to protect it from dangers which may arise due to the implementation of the Act. We are reaffirming the right over, our land by shouting Joi Aai Asom,” said businessman Brojen Deka.

55-year old housewife Abida Begum said, “It is our duty to protect the state for the indigenous people and by shouting Joi Aai Asom, we express the immense love we have
for our state”.

The salutation had become popular during the six-year-long Assam agitation against the illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh and has emerged again now as a protest cry. The cry ‘Ho!Ho!’ too has become a stamp of protest by AASU against the Act. It is raised by its leaders and is echoed by the protestors in all their meetings and rallies.

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Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has ridiculed the cry ‘Ho!Ho!’. He said that the protestors were saying they were fighting for protection of their language, “but is this an Assamese expression?”

AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya retorted, “We are on a mission to ensure the revocation of the amended Citizenship Act. This is our traditional war cry which we will
continue to chant till our demand is fulfilled.”