Metropolis shut down - moral policing or vendetta?
Not even 24 hours have passed since the Government decided to clamp down ‘Metropolis’, Guwahati’s Urban Winter carnival and the move has been regarded self contradictory by several. Kaushik Jai Baruah, a student from Delhi said, “Where was the administration when GMDA had allowed said permission for the festival? These events involve money, time and a lot of effort- the government should not act as an obstacle to sensible initiatives taken by the youth.” Speaking to the organisers of Metropolis, the organizers claimed to have obtained due permission from the authorities including Police Commissionerate and the GMDA which included booking of the venue at Rs. 16000 per day, which amounts to Rs. 48000 for 3 days the carnival was held. Additionally what also can be shared is that for GMDA, this festival was a source of revenue. They collected Rs. 62000 (Day 1), Rs. 1,08,000 (Day 2) and Rs. 30000 (for whatever little time they were open on day 3) through ticket sales. This racks up a total of Rs. 200000+ in 3 days whereas Nehru Park collects about Rs. 10000-12000 on an average each day. So from taking photos, to getting inked, to eating and having a gala time all around, apart from display of art, music and talent through various platforms, Metropolis opened its gates to the young and old alike.
Secondly, there was active involvement of government departments like District Administration (Office of the DC Kamrup (M)), Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), GMC Mayor Mrigen Sarania, Swachha Survekshan’s call to action, North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC) and had the consent and participation of the various stakeholders of the government. However in the entire incident of shutting down the event before time, the people who were harassed were the organizers, hundreds of volunteers and the young participants waiting to perform.
Thirdly, the entire incident has shown the arbitrary exercise of power by the Government. The government showed their high handedness in dealing with the incident with one tweet where the GDD Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted – “Why GMDA allowed Nehru Park for so called winter festival? The park belongs to the children. I will not tolerate atmosphere to be vitiated.”
This was Metropolis’ 5th edition and with 4 hiccup free seasons in the past, the organizers continued to conduct the event as usual. A concerned citizen speaking to GPlus said, “The present Government should have shown its intent to promote such activities by being less invasive and more accepting of the entire idea.”
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament Gaurav Gogoi tweeted:”Assam govt opens wine shops earlier in the day but shuts down youth arts festival for being a nuisance.” Interestingly it is rumoured by a lot of political commentators that Gaurav Gogoi is in good terms with the organisers and that might be a reason which might have fuelled the entire action.
It is believed that the event had regional and international significance. The Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA) had come from Bhutan to perform at the event and presented a great opportunity for cultural assimilation. However, one of the volunteers said, “While Bhutan was performing their traditional songs and were dancing on stage, we were asked to shut down everything within 5 minutes,” which could be seen as unprofessional and lacking in proper conduct.
Speaking to one of the volunteers of the event, she shared that whole park was booked for the fest and due permissions were taken. “We didn't even see the police inspecting or spying the whole event last year, but this year it was different and they were inspecting from day 1. The show was shut down before 9 on Day 2 because they said they received some complaints of indecency. Every year we have a delegate. Last year it was Russia and people from Russia came. This time it was Bhutan. So while Bhutan was performing their traditional songs and were dancing on stage, we were asked to shut down everything within 5 minutes.”
“They came at around 3:30 PM to the venue and no one was allowed to come in or go out. But surprisingly several media channels *names withheld* were allowed to come in. Our Metropolis IDs were torn by the police and said that they shut us down for indecency,” said the volunteer.
According to sources, in response to Himanta’s tweet, parents who took their children to Metropolis, posted pictures of them having fun and said they didn't want to leave. “Metropolis is organised by some young people who are trying really hard to give a platform to the creative minds,” shared the volunteer.
The venue had space for several stalls that were expecting a good business, but were harassed in the final hours of the event. The festival engaged thousands of youths of the city and the region in the form of volunteers, businesses and even young artists who got a platform to showcase their talent.
Several people from Guwahati used social media to express their anger. Miguel Das Queah, Founder Chairman at UTSAH-Universal Team for Social Action and Help said: “I was at the festival last evening myself. I had the most invigorating session on corporal punishment in schools with a host of distinguished guests. After the programme, I met lots of lots of children, along with their parents, who told me that they were absolutely enjoying the festivity. The children I had taken with me, from the community, were in awe of the beautiful decorations and wished to stay longer.”
A highly placed source at Metropolis said that some media channels and newspapers reported the event as obscene and against our culture. “A newspaper that reported about Metropolis on 7th January reported it as ‘obscene’. We know how hard we are working to promote and nurture young talent at such a large scale. However, people are extremely petty and unprofessional.”
Meanwhile, the GMDA chairman speaking to GPlus said “I had ordered action even before even Himanta tweeted”. The chairman revealed that the approval for the first day of the event was given because it was a District Administration supported event and accordingly the event was inaugurated by DC Kamrup (M) M. Angamuthu.
However, the GMDA chairman said that he received 2-3 calls from the public who said that children were facing problems in the park because of the event and that several norms were also flouted by the organizers. Following this, Mr. Baruah ordered an inspection of the venue and the inspection team reported that there were several violations of norms.
The GMDA team visited the event premises on 7th who confirmed that there were several violations. Some of the violations included covering the Prime Minister J.L. Nehru’s statue with sponsor ads which has been termed “Anti-National” by sources, digging holes in the park’s premises and other violations. It is also important to mention that the permission for the event was given with various T&Cs which according to GMDA properly followed until this edition.
Read Full story: http://g-plus.in/page/news-i-had-ordered-action-even-before-himanta-tweeted-dhiren-baruah-gmda-chairman
So there might be moral reasons for shutting down the event early but is the arrogant tweet by a leader who is expected to develop and change the state justified? If the permission was provided and money was taken by the authorities, why was the violation of the norms of terms and condition not checked on the first day?
“We see Himanta as one of the intellectual and dynamic leaders in state politics and hope that his action is backed by enough justification because if it is not, we do not really have anybody else who we can look up to. And if the parks are only meant for children then Mr. Sarma should work on creating infrastructure were such large events can be conducted with adequate security and discipline,” said a concerned Guwahatian.
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