Assam media upheld artistic freedom

IN Opinion | 23/04/2013
LETTER TO THE HOOT: When ULFA issued a diktat against Hindi songs at Bihu celebrations, the Assamese media sprang into action.
JAYANTA TAMULI says it played an exemplary role in the drama by discussing the issue in-depth.

Dear Editor,

The Assamese media has been posting regular updates on the clash between ULFA and Zubeen Garg over the issue of singing Hindi songs in  stage programmes of Rongali Bihu celebrations. Special talk shows, interviews with the artiste, telephonic conversations with Paresh Baruah (the leader of the outfit) have been telecast in the electronic media. The entire issue got critical attention.

Questions were raised about the democratic rights of artistes in a country like India, the validity of moral policing by an extremist organisation, the conflict between tradition and globalisation and the role of media in such situations. Everybody knows that music does not have any boundaries. In this era of globalisation, music has transcended national and communal boundaries. Lovers of music can listen to any kind of music irrespective of language, country or ethnic origin. We Indians, including the Assamese people, are always proud of being the beneficiaries of globalisation. If this is the situation, why this diktat?

An artiste is always an artiste. He/she enjoys the liberty to choose what he/she will perform. It is also true that this liberty has been frequently misused by artistes on different occasions. Even Zubeen, the popular singer, often belies the expectations of his patrons. But this time, Zubeen cannot be blamed. On the very eve of the festival, ULFA suddenly ordered that Hindi songs should not be performed on stage. Assamese mass has almost forgotten the existence of ULFA. A large number of the militants and leaders of the organisation have surrendered and live private lives. Many see it as a fragmented organisation that indulges in emotional blackmail of the Assamese community.

Zubeen Garg is a talented singer who has composed a good number of beautiful songs. Zubeen and Angarag Papon are two devoted singers who have their place in the national scene and promote regional music on a wider platform. Lovers of culture never look for faults in the personal lives of artists. A good song, whether it is in Assamese or Hindi, is always enjoyable. Moreover, an outfit like ULFA does not have the right to Taliban-style moral policing. An organisation that does not have its own space in the state, should not take such a step. It becomes clear that the alienated outfit is trying to gain sympathy by reviving its old propaganda of sub-nationalism. Paresh Baruah should understand that issues of flood, corruption, unemployment or rhino poaching are more important. Art should not be bound by any limitations, nor can cultural choices be dictated. Thanks to Assamese media, artistes got a chance to proclaim their liberty, identity and mass base. Moreover, unknown facts and documents about the festival were dug out in the process. In this aspect, special mention should be made of the talk show ‘Prasangakrame’ (aired on Dy 365, an Assamese news channel) which provided lots of new information about the festival. Hope Assamese media, instead of using it as a mere TRP factor, will introspect more on wider issues. 

Jayanta  Tamuli


22 April, 2013



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