ANDREW W. LYNGDOH
Shillong, Oct. 7: Although music knows no linguistic barriers, a Meghalaya legislator today expressed reservation against Hindi songs at government-sponsored festivals as they do not epitomise the culture of the indigenous people.
Raising the issue during Question Hour on the second day of the autumn session of the Assembly, South Tura legislator John Leslee K. Sangma, while not advocating a total ban of Hindi songs during government-sponsored festivals, also expressed deep anguish over wine festivals. He said “ugly incidents” invariably crop up when people become intoxicated.
In Assam, Ulfa had warned singers and artistes against performing Hindi songs and dances during Rongali Bihu. In Manipur, too, underground outfits have banned the screening of Hindi films in the state.
The legislator also wanted to know the reasons behind organising “winter festivals” by the state tourism department.
This year, three such festivals are likely to take place in December. Besides, the three-day Shillong Autumn Festival, scheduled from November 1, has been scrapped as the organising body — the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum (MTDF) — called it off “as a mark of protest” against the ongoing agitation by pro inner-line permit groups.
In reply, chief minister Mukul Sangma said such festivals were organised to provide visitors a glimpse into the “culture, tradition, cuisine and handicrafts of the people of the state and to foster unity and understanding of the cultural diversity,” apart from leveraging these as tourism products. The chief minister said stakeholders at the district level were being invited to structure the programmes, which would be listed for such festivals.
“The replies given are opposite to what is actually happening. You have singers from Shillong and elsewhere who come (to a festival in Tura) and sing Hindi songs, which do not actually reflect the culture of the people,” the South Tura legislator said in response to Sangma’s reply.
The legislator said such government-sponsored festivals should actually give a platform to themes that are in sync with the culture and tradition of the people.
At the same time, he expressed reservation against wine festivals as he felt that “intoxicated persons become erratic” after consuming alcohol. “We have seen what happened during a festival held in Williamnagar in East Garo Hills last year. Such wine festivals promote ugly incidents and disturb peace, which, again, do not reflect our culture,” the legislator said.
To this, the chief minister said every programme has its own timing, and under-age youths who consume alcohol are taken to task by the district administration.
While not being in a position to spell out the expenditure involved in organising the winter festival in the different districts in 2012-13, the chief minister said these festivals provide local people and entrepreneurs with an opportunity to display and sell their products, including local cuisine.
He also said the festivals generate revenue for small local shops, eateries, transport operators and others, besides increasing hotel occupancy.