Guwahati: Young Parismita and her classmate Dhruba, both in their early 20s, have never ever participated at an Independence Day parade. The fear of terror attacks prompted them to keep away from taking part in the national day celebrations.
Come Sunday, the two college students would make their way to the Latasil playground to witness and be part of India’s Independence Day - the central celebrations in Assam’s main city of Guwahati.
"Enough is enough. It is time we go and participate actively to have in us that feeling of patriotism back that has almost gone missing among the new generation," Parismita said. Dhruba nodded in unison.
A vast majority of those who have attained 30 years of age in Assam have never been to an Independence Day parade in their life as the state has been witnessing a drumbeat of violence in the run-up to the national day celebrations since the early 1980s.
This time round, a generation of young in Assam have pledged to reverse the trend by publicly pledging to defy any militant boycott call of the celebrations and mark their presence at the Independence Day parade ground in their respective areas.
"It is time we boldly stand up against militancy. There is a change in the mindset of the new generation to defy any form of rebel boycott calls," said Joy Prakash, a youth leader from the ruling Congress party.
For many, the Aug 15 celebrations are nothing but a holiday - militant groups like the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) have for years boycotted India`s Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations to protest New Delhi`s rule over the vast region rich in oil, tea and timber.
The run-up to the events has always been violent, with rebels striking vital installations like crude oil pipelines, trains, roads and rail bridges besides targeting security personnel.
The fear compounded more after ULFA triggered a powerful landmine at an Independence Day parade ground at Dhemaji town in eastern Assam in 2004. Fourteen people were killed, most of them school children.
Such was the fear that parents stopped sending their children to Assam to attend national day celebrations.
"We need to reverse the trend by plucking up courage and motivate our children to attend Independence Day and Republic Day functions," said Keshab Bora, a freedom fighter.