Picnic is the greatest form of entertainment for most people of Assam if seen from the communal level. In Assam the Young and the old all take part in a picnic every year. It may be a family picnic or, one with colleagues or, with neighbours or, (by teachers) with students or, with business partners or, with colleagues within an organization or, it may even be the loud and soundful ones which is usually undertaken in a big vehicle and almost all the neighborhood taking part, etc. But almost all the capable in the society enjoy a picnic, far or near, every year. All in all, this is one common ritual wherein everyone in the society takes part even once in his lifetime.
There are many picnic places in Assam. Famous among them are bhairavkunda, bhalukpong, chandubi, amsoi, chapanolaa, silghat, borsill, charaideo, deomali, dillighat and also the wildlife sanctuaries-cum-picnic spots of kaziranga, manas and pobitoraa. The wildlife sanctuaries are thrown open in the month of November while the picnics start from December and lasts till February. This is because the examinations in the schools under the state government conducted curriculum (including private schools) are over by November and so the students, teachers as well as the guardians find a great lightness mentally. This gets manifested in the form of a picnic for all of them. However, after the magh bihu occurs every following year, the intensity of the picnickers wanes and it completely stops as soon as the first monsoons are perceived in February last or early March.
Picnic in Assam is a great source of revenue to the state government as well as income to the ordinary people of the state. The state government charges tolls on the vehicles coming for picnicking and also for sight-seeing in the wildlife sanctuaries. As the foreigners come into the state especially for touring these sanctuaries and viewing the flora and the fauna they contain, the state government receives a considerable amount of foreign exchange in this way. In addition to this, local youths also charges tolls from every picnicking party in return for maintaining the cleanliness of the places. Amsoi in morigaon district is a good example of such picnic spots wherein the locals very cleanly maintain the picnic spots by charging a small fee from every group. This acts as an income to the locals while the cleanliness of the place is also maintained. In addition to that, local people hawk different types of commodities-from betel nuts to wine-to the picnickers which also serves as a good source of income to them. Some local people sell fuelwood to the picnickers. Some act as helpers by helping in the various menial works of the picnickers and thus earn some money in this way. The tenthouse owners and the cooks also profit from this tradition. The vehicle owners view this time as the greatest season of the year. The frequency of renting vehicles, especially the four wheeled ones during this season, simply surpasses that even of the marriage season. In the wildlife sanctuaries the vehicle owners lease their four wheeled vehicles for safaris and sight-seeing activities and thus reap a good income during this season. This type of frolicking and earning (whatever may be the quantity) had been going on for decades.
However, this was not to be last year. As the results of the parliamentary elections were declared last year, the Narendra Modi led BJP were again voted to power. This time the party decided to implement its decision to bring back oppressed but interested Hindus from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to India which it had been unable to during its last term in power. To this the Assamese people got panicky. A rumour was spread that one crore, ninety lakh or, nineteen million Bengalees would be settling in Assam through this process. This made the Assamese people, under various groups, agitate. There were large scale protests from December 2019 to January 2020. This ebbed the desire of the people for picnicking. The agitators, in places, also stopped the picnickers and tried to interfere with them. Violence was also used against them. To them, it was not the time for frolicking and making Merry. All in all, this agitation of last year, commonly called the anti citizenship amendment act (CAA), dampened the sentiments of people to picnicking.
The repercussions of this non-picnicking during the picnic season of last year were felt by many. To the agitators, the agitation meant greater than fun and frolicking and so should be carried out by all with full gusto. To the ordinary but picnic enthusiastic citizens, they felt they missed something. But to the vehicle owners, especially those who rent their vehicles at the wildlife sanctuaries, it was a big blow because this (picnicking and safari) season is the greatest to them during the year. The government lost thousands of rupess of income in foreign exchange from the absence of foreign tourists during the season and also, through the discontinuance of safaris, non-rental of cars and rooms and, the low or near zero toll in the sites. All in all, it was dejection and loss of revenue (to the government) and also of income to all.
This time of course the people are confronted with a different enemy. The CAA agitation of last year has completely died down as there are no records of bengalees entering and settling in Assam from Bangladesh. They are hoping that the corona pandemic die down quickly and completely so that the institution of picnicking will restart with full vigour this season. Amen!