Christmas celebrations were a low-key affair in Assam amid ongoing protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act. Despite the somber mood, midnight prayers for peace and happiness were organised across the state on Tuesday night.
Priests in various churches said that 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.
The manager of a major hotel in Guwahati said the present situation in the state did not warrant organising functions in hotels.
"We oppose CAA and for the cause of our Assamese community, language and culture we are prepared to forego our earning. We oppose the Act as it will destroy us," said Inamul Ali, who along with his friend, sets up a temporary roadside shop in Barpeta for selling Christmas decorations.
The mood among the people is sombre and they would rather go for anti-CAA protests and rallies across the state, a businessman said.
A college student, Carolina James, said, "My friends I will join the anti-CAA protests by artists and poets who will express their opposition to CAA at Latasil field here on Wednesday, through their art forms."
Here 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.
Assam witnessed one of the worst violent protests by the public in its history with five persons, including four in firing by security forces, losing their lives.
Three rail stations, a post office, a bank, a bus terminus, shops, dozens of vehicles and public properties were set ablaze and damaged since December 9.
After the Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on December 11, the state erupted in uncontrolled protests, in which agitators engaged in pitch battle in almost every major city or town, forcing the administration to impose curfew.
Several towns and cities such as Dibrugarh, Tezpur and Dhekiajuli and Guwahati were placed under indefinite curfew.
Night curfew was imposed in Jorhat, Golaghat, Tinsukia and Charaideo districts.With the situation limping back to normalcy, curfew was lifted from several cities and relaxed in the rest.