Time for Celebration
It’s been three years since the Hornbill Festival, dubbed as the ‘Festival of Festivals’, has not been celebrated in its fullness. The disruption began in 2020 when the government of Nagaland was forced to cancel the 10-day cultural extravaganza amid the COVID pandemic scare, before it was called off midway in the following year due to the Oting incident, and then the boycotting by seven tribes from the eastern region of the state last year over statehood demand. So, the decision of the Eastern Nagaland Peoples’ Organisation (ENPO) to allow its members to participate in the upcoming Hornbill Festival, after the initial doubt, is a welcome move. Their absence in the previous edition was felt. Obviously, the absence of any community will be felt as well, not only by the tourists but also the people of the state. This is natural as various communities in the state have been working as one unit since the festival was first held in 2000. The event has evolved into a big tourist attraction and one of the most popular festivals in the country over the years; several activities have been added but the essence remains unchanged. By showcasing the state’s rich cultural heritage to visitors through traditional dance performances, songs, food, crafts, games, etc., the state also preserves its colourful traditions, introducing it to the younger generation. It’s a two-way benefit. In the same measure, non-participating groups also stand to lose.
It is the bounden duty of the government to address pressing issues and work for the welfare of the people. However, intentionally disrupting major state events just to garner attention can be self-defeating. For a small state like Nagaland, it will be too costly to allow disagreements and grievances at various levels, come in the way of an event as big as the Hornbill Festival, after pumping in crores of rupees in the hope of favourable returns- providing economic impetus through tourism. Though democratic protests and agitations cannot be stopped, it can be avoided during events of this magnitude, especially if it will cause inconvenience to the tourists and revellers. That doesn’t mean the state government should turn a deaf ear to public grievances, but we should also remember that some activities can have huge ramifications for a small state like Nagaland in terms of economy and the pursuit to boost the tourism sector. There is time for everything. Hornbill Festival is a time to celebrate the state’s rich culture and we should continue to do that. We can’t afford to allow petty differences and grievances undo the gains made in tourism, entrepreneurship, promotion of culture and forging unity among various communities, through the festival over the decades.