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Festivity grips nation as markets turn Christmas red amid anti-CAA protests

However, the mood was sombre in Assam where intense anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests were witnessed in run-up to the festival during which at least five people were killed

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Protest, assam, nrc, NPR, citizenship

Yuletide spirit gripped most parts of the nation with markets turning Christmas red and homes, churches and public places illuminated, as midnight masses and resonance of carols ushered in the festival Wednesday.

However, the mood was sombre in Assam where intense anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests were witnessed in run-up to the festival during which at least five people were killed.

Amid the CAA shadow, midnight prayers for peace and happiness were organised across the state. Priests in various churches said the situation and mood in the state did not enliven the spirit to celebrate the occasion with mirth and gaiety.

"The holy birth of our Lord Jesus Christ has to be celebrated. But this time we are celebrating the occasion with the mere decoration of a Christmas tree and the nativity scene only," Father Thomas of a local church here said, adding that no lights have been put up for decorating the church.

Residents of various places across the state, during midnight mass on Tuesday, prayed for peace and calm, said another priest in Dibrugarh.

People have been acting with restraint regarding decoration of churches, private homes, hotels and other public places and shops selling Christmas decoration and party items hardly did any business this year.

An owner of one such major shop, Manohar Lal, said, "The footfall of customers is minimal this time. Most of the goods I had ordered before CAA are lying with hardly anyone buying them".

Hemanta Gogoi who also sells such decorations in Jorhat said, "I don't mind that my goods are not selling as the general mood in the state is sad because of the CAA and five persons losing their lives when violence broke out during anti-CAA protests in Guwahati."

The hotels in the state which organise various programmes every year have no such plans this time.

In Assam - Hindus, Muslims, Assamese and all other communities have been living together for centuries, a resident of Guwahati, Pinaki Sen, said. "Now an attempt is being made to create a division, through CAAWe will not allow the new citizenship law to be implemented here," Sen added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the people on the occasion, saying the teachings of Jesus Christ inspire millions across the world.

"We remember, with immense joy, the noble thoughts of Jesus Christ. He epitomised spirit of service and compassion, devoting his life towards alleviating human suffering," the prime minister wrote on Twitter.

In the capital, scores of people thronged the city's churches, popular malls and shopping centres to celebrate Christmas. Anticipating heavy traffic, the Delhi Traffic Police had on Tuesday released an advisory asking commuters to avoid roads with prominent churches.

Special masses were held across Tamil Nadu as worshippers teemed at churches to celebrate Christmas. Brightly illuminated churches, be it the ancient Santhome Cathedral Basilica or the St Thomas Mount Shrine welcomed the devout.

In Nagapattinam district, prayers were held after a gap of 300 years at the historic Tarangambadihouse where Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg, the German-born Danish Missionary lived.

The small Christian population of Kashmir celebrated Christmas with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervour as the devotees thronged churches for masses as special prayers were held for peace in the valley.

The higher reaches of North Kashmir along the LoC basked in the festive spirit with Army jawans celebrating Christmas. 'Jingle bells jingle bells' rent the air as the temperature went down to around minus 15 degree Celsius.

In Christian-dominated Nagaland, Christians, irrespective of denominations, celebrated the festival across the state with religious fervour and held special mass and feast.

After the midnight mass which was preceded by singing of carols, believers attired in new colourful dresses were seen attending special prayer services in various churches across the Christian majority state. This was followed by mass feasts as in other years.

K Elu Ndang, general secretary of Naga Hoho, the apex body of tribal organizations in the state, said, "We condemn the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill which is posing a grave danger to the indigenous people of the region. We feel insecure with enactment of the CAA but it has nothing to do with Christmas," he said.

North East Indigenous Peoples Forum said the people are against the CAA. "But this is a festival break and protests against CAA will resume after Christmas and New Year celebrations".

Protests against the CAA had rocked Nagaland on December 14 and a six-hour shutdown was called by Naga Students Federation.

Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik greeted the people. Elaborate security arrangements were made in communally sensitive Kandhamal district to ensure peaceful celebrations.

Keralites celebrated Christmas with traditional fervour rejoicing the birth of Jesus Christ, with the faithful thronging churches for special prayers and midnight mass.

Braving cold weather, people from different walks of life thronged churches in various cities of Uttar Pradesh to celebrate the festival. In state capital Lucknow, Hazratganj wore a festive look with youngsters donning red Santa caps and visiting the St Joseph Cathedral and offering prayers to the God.

The festival was celebrated with enthusiasm across Punjab and Haryana as special prayers were held at churches across the two states including their common capital Chandigarh.

First Published: Wed, December 25 2019. 20:50 IST