write2kill.in | Select writings of Subir Ghosh
 
 
 
  • Sharebar

Jatinga Festival: The showcase that could not be

Jatinga Festival: The showcase that could not be
So it began: Governor JB Patnaik inaugurating the festival. Photo: Subir Ghosh

North Cachar Hills always had its share of problems ― from the politics of insurgencies to that of underdevelopment. But these have become increasingly internecine and debilitating since this district of Assam was renamed Dima Hasao earlier this year. For the uninitiated, NC Hills is to Assam what Assam is to India ― a vibrant melting pot of cultures. What the rechristening has decidedly done is make things worse for the people living in the area. They are now caught between Scylla and Charybdis. And their discomfiture lies in the fact that the two keep changing all the time. You never know who's going to cook your goose next. Life here goes beyond proverbs.

The recent Jatinga Festival serves as a case in point.

For someone who has been travelling in the Northeast but has missed out on Haflong for one reason or the other, a trip to this hilly town is nothing short of a dream come true. So, when the opportunity came, I wouldn't have kissed it goodbye. The trip began on a promising note, as our vehicle breezed its way from Guwahati at dusk. The woods gradually grew lovelier, darker, deeper. But the euphoria of homecoming, so to speak, did not last. Barely had we entered adjacent Karbi Anglong district, that the bad news came in the form of a call on our escort's cellphone. Someone had called a bandh the following day, October 26. It didn't matter who had called it; what did was that the festival was to get under way the following morning with an exhibition meant to showcase artisans. In other words, the festival seemed a non-starter.

On reaching Haflong, we were given the backdrop to the bandh. The Dima Halam Daogah (Dilip Nunisa) had called for a district-wide shutdown to protest the assault on one of its cadres on October 23 at Gabao village near Haflong. This was not the first time such an incident had happened, but DHD(D) was adamant that it would stick to its bandh call. Of course, it had decided to wait and time its bandh call with the first day of the Jatinga Festival. Requests by the festival organisers fell on deaf ears and DHD(D) stuck to its guns. It doesn't take much to enforce a bandh in the district; normal life was hit on October 26.

The words initially were that it was to be a daylong bandh. As normal life lay disrupted, more words came in ― this was to be an indefinite bandh.

On October 27, the festival was officially inaugurated by Governor JB Patnaik. A thousand or two people from neighbouring villages climbed up to the grounds where the Governor lighted the ceremonial lamp. A few perfunctory speeches and a group dance later, it was all over. A display of traditional games was cancelled. So were a few other items on the agenda. Only a handful of stalls were occupied at the grounds. Disappointment writ large on the faces of most villagers who had risked coming in. The hour-long event was not yet over when more disturbing words trickled in ― four coaches of the Silchar-bound Barak Valley Express had been derailed following a blast on the railways tracks. There were no casualties, for the blast was of low intensity. One waited with bated breath for another bandh call to protest the blast.

The DHD(D), to everyone's pleasant surprise, called off its indefinite bandh. The next day, naturally, was a normal one. No untoward incidents. No protests. No bandhs. It seemed too good to be true, or to last.

The expected bandh, however, came the next day. From unexpected quarters, and with practically no prior notice. The Indigenous People's Forum (IPF) had called for a 24-hour strike protesting the blast two days back. The leaders of the IPF, primarily a ragtag coalition opposed to the renaming of the district, were in no mood to yield to the festival organisers. While the DHD (D) bandh had been a virtual success by the token call itself, this one was enforced by activists. No vehicles were allowed to ply. No shops were allowed to open. The festival had begun with a bandh; it was destined to end with one.

The festival organisers, led by the committee secretary Kulendra Daulagupu, had wanted to showcase all the bright and colourful things about the area. The political undercurrents, the simmering tension between Dimasas and non-Dimasas, among other things, effectively sabotaged all hopes and plans.

This was the first Jatinga festival. It will not be the last, but for the next one can be a success only if the distrust and disharmony among the people of the area recedes into history. Or else, it will repeat itself next time round.

PS: There was some saving grace, though. A number of rock bands regaled the audience at the NL Daulogupu sports complex on October 28. The grounds were jampacked the next evening for the Lucky Ali concert.

People do deserve a break, don't they?

 
 
 
Daily Newsletter
Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner
Random Pick: People
Launch of 'Until My Freedom Has Come - The New Intifada in Kashmir'
May 26, 2011 | Launch of 'Until My Freedom Has Come - The New Intifada in Kashmir': The much-awaited launch of Until My Freedom Has Come - The New Intifada in Kashmir happened. The editor of the compilation, Sanjay Kak, had been warned by the publisher about people walking... Continue reading Launch of 'Until My Freedom Has Come - The New Intifada in Kashmir'
Random Pick: Development
Mining and India's resource curse
October 1, 2011 | Mining and India's resource curse: It is not always that the “people” of this country get to hear good news. And let’s, for once, exclude the privileged like us (who are fortunate to have been born in cities and read these... Continue reading Mining and India's resource curse
Random Pick: Media
Amazon woos newspapers, magazines with 70% cut on Kindle
November 10, 2010 | Amazon woos newspapers, magazines with 70% cut on Kindle: Amazon will start paying publishers more when they sell magazines and newspapers on its Kindle reader. It will pay publishers 70 percent of the retail price - compared to the current 30 percent - for... Continue reading Amazon woos newspapers, magazines with 70% cut on Kindle
Random Pick: Women
The uterus removal of 226 women in Rajasthan was a bestial act
April 17, 2011 | The uterus removal of 226 women in Rajasthan was a bestial act: You, more often than not, become a product of the times and the circumstances that you live in. If you live in a conflict zone, the incessant bloodletting gets to you sooner than later. Either you... Continue reading The uterus removal of 226 women in Rajasthan was a bestial act
Random Pick: Conflict
Operation Blackout: Keeping Kashmir out of the news
August 11, 2009 | Operation Blackout: Keeping Kashmir out of the news: In July I received a mail from a journalist who wanted to pitch me an interesting story idea from Kashmir. The mail was directed to an account I hardly check. Not that it would have made much... Continue reading Operation Blackout: Keeping Kashmir out of the news
Random Pick: Cinema
Ten Indian films that are celebrating their 50th year in 2010
September 14, 2010 | Ten Indian films that are celebrating their 50th year in 2010: Out there every film critic worth his or her salt is writing about the fifty years of Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de soufflé (Breathless), including those in Hollywood which has... Continue reading Ten Indian films that are celebrating their 50th year in 2010
Random Pick: Wildlife
One fifth of the world’s plants are under threat of extinction
September 30, 2010 | One fifth of the world’s plants are under threat of extinction: Plants are as threatened as mammals, with one in five of the world’s plant species threatened with extinction. It is for the first time that the true extent of the threat to the world’s estimated... Continue reading One fifth of the world’s plants are under threat of extinction
Random Pick: Health
That's how the swine flu: Less than a fourth of patients now show symptoms
March 18, 2014 | That's how the swine flu: Less than a fourth of patients now show symptoms: Flu's getting scarier by the day. Three-quarters of people infected with seasonal flu and swine flu in recent years have shown no symptoms. In other words, in today's world you might be down with... Continue reading That's how the swine flu: Less than a fourth of patients now show symptoms
</