Is Assam's BJP Govt Trying To Bury CAA Protests?
By Jyotirmoy Talukdar
When there’s trouble, throw a glitzy, distracting event. This, filmmaker Bhaskar Hazarika believes, is the philosophy guiding the decision to host the 65th Filmfare Awards ceremony in Guwahati on February 15 this year. Bhaskar, internationally acclaimed for his films Kothanodi (2015) and Aamis (2019), is one of many Assamese voices from the field of art and culture who are troubled by the government’s decision to carry the ‘Black Lady’ all the way to Guwahati.
The official line is that the Filmfare Awards will provide a fillip to the state’s tourism sector. According to local media reports, the Assam government is set to spendup to Rs 30 crore of itsRs 300 crore state budget allocation for tourism on the star-studded event. However, opinions are divided regarding the spending as well as the timing, with rumblings that the event is a ploy to draw attention away from the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests and political turmoil in Assam.
An exercise without vision’
According to Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of the All Assam Students’ Union, the government should have cancelled the event out of respect for the people’s agitation. These sentiments are echoed by actor Ravi Sharma, a superstar in the Assamese film industry in the 1990s and 2000s. “Six of our boys have been killed in the recent struggle, and I’m personally still in mourning,” he says.
The government’s use of funds has also been questioned. Gogoi says the BJP dispensation tends to give undue importance to grand festivities (“melamukhi karbar”) even at times of extreme duress, and this instance, in particular, is an exercise without vision. “They are spending Rs 30 crore on this gala, yet when floods and erosion happen, the same authorities ask common people for donations. What is their comprehensive tourism policy?”
Sharma feels the same way. “Is [the awards ceremony] in any way contributing to infrastructure support for tourism? Some days ago, atourist in Majuli died. When you exit Guwahati airport, you’ll not be able to find a public washroom with toilet paper. If they really wanted to promote tourism, they should have addressed the issues of sanitation, hotels and transport,” he says.
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