VIJAYAWADA: The three-day Sankranti harvest festival turned into a season of protests repeatedly for the past two years in Andhra Pradesh. Various farmers’ organisations burned copies of the new agriculture laws in Bhogi Mantalu (bonfire) this year, while urban citizen forums burned government orders (GOs) on an increase in property tax in a similar fashion.
In reactions that Deccan Chronicle gathered on the political turn to the festival season, priest G Venkateswarlu noted that discarding of old material and welcoming new things as part of social transformation is the message from Bhogi for centuries.
“This used to be the time when people burned old and abandoned items and forgot hatred of the past to start a new life from Sankranti. However, of late, Bhogi has turned into a festival of protests. Earlier, political parties used to honour religious sentiments and avoid politicizing the traditions. Nowadays, the trend has changed and religion has turned into a political subject. Hence, the burning of GOs in bonfire started,” he noted.
“Any group can express its anguish to the government any time, but protests during festivals would draw added attention. Hence, resort to such actions is seeing a rise year after year,” he added.
Social activist, R Vinod said farmers who facing “difficulties” due to the new agriculture laws were not sleeping for many days. “They are not in a position to celebrate the harvest festival. There is nothing wrong in burning the copies of GOs, as Bhogi is meant to burn the old and the unacceptable. Aside of the burning protests by several groups and political parties, the people in general organised Bhogi bonfire in a traditional manner, which showed the greatness of our society.”
The Opposition Telugu Desam was at the forefront in burning the GOs of the YSR Congress government via the Bhogi bonfire. TD chief N Chandrababu Naidu joined the Bhogi event at Paritala and burned objectionable GO copies via the bonfire. TD leaders did the same in all the 13 districts.
AP Urban Citizens Forum leaders lamented that the Sankranti festival turned painful for all due to imposition of “huge” taxes even as the people were already facing a severe financial crises due to the series of lockdowns. “People were not able to celebrate Sankranti due to tax hikes. Hence they are holding protests via the Bhogi bonfire. The leaders of APUCF, CITU, farmers’ organisations and women associations led by APUCF convener Ch Babu Rao gathered at Besant Road in Vijayawada and burned the copies of central laws in the Bhogi bonfire.
Women also made use of Bhogi bonfire to trash the new agriculture laws. Women in large numbers led by Mahila Aikya Vedika convener Sunkara Padamasree burned copies of three laws in a Bhogi bonfire at Benz Circle in Vijayawada. She lamented that the BJP government “turned a deaf ear to the agitation of farmers” and helping corporates by killing the farming sector....