Unrest in Arunachal burns Northeastern Artists

GUWAHATI: Artistes from Assam had to suffer a huge loss in Arunachal Pradesh where they were to perform at the first Itanagar International Film Festival (IIFF). A reporter from Assam interviewed artists who had a harrowing experience at Itanagar last week.

‘One dead in firing, popular Naga rock band loses car, musical instruments,’ ran anotherheadline.

Alobonaga lost priceless equipment

The Itanagar International Film festival had to face the wrath of an unruly mob on Friday night with artists from all over India having to bear the brunt of it. The agitation by mob was against the government’s move to grant Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs) to six non-Arunachali tribal communities.

The venue of the festival was pelted with stones and cars trashed. “Many cars, including two Innova cars (AS 01 AH 9009 and AS 01 GC 6048) of our band were completely destroyed. The artists went to the festival upon request from the Arunachal Pradesh Government that assured us of providing escorts. However, the government failed to provide us security,” said Kailash Sharma, the lead guitarist of SKD Band of Guwahati while talking to The Sentinel. He further said: “Our equipments were destroyed. Our lead and bass guitars were inside the cars. We lost equipments worth crores of rupees. Their idea was to burn the secretariat right next to the hotel where the delegates and artists were staying. They were initially targeting the government vehicles, but when a person got shot dead, it provoked more violence.”

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One of the worst affected by the mob violence was Nagaland-based singer, composer, and songwriter Alobo Naga, the frontman of popular rock band Alobo Naga and The Band (ANTB). He had reached Itanagar on the fateful day to perform at the film festival.

Many of Alobo Naga’s shows across the globe have been in conflict zones. He had a first-hand experience of violence in Itanagar, the place he least expected to be “caught in the crossfire”.

Winner of the Best Indian Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2012, Mr Naga said he had never imagined in his worst nightmare that he would become the victim of mob violence.

“Trouble had started brewing when I arrived here. I thought the film festival venue would be a safer place to park my music van than the hotel. This (Saturday) morning, I found my van burnt along with my guitar, keyboard and other music instruments,” he told The Hindu from Itanagar.

The van, he said, was worth Rs 25 lakh and the music instruments priceless.

Other participants at IIFF too were counting losses like the Nagaland rock band. A Guwahati-based supplier of acoustics and tent material said the mob destroyed “almost everything” running into a few million rupees.

Apart from damaging at least 20 vehicles at the Dorjee Khandu Convention Centre – in Itanagar’s VIP area – where the main screen of the film festival was installed, the mob destroyed five inflatable screens at the Indira Gandhi Park besides everything else standing there.

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“We had installed five inflatable halls with a screen, each with a capacity for 130-150 people. They are all damaged,” an organiser said, declining to be quoted.

The Sadou Asom Silpi Suraksha Mancha condemned the attack on artistes in Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday.
Singer Bornali Kalita said: “We need to respect artists. The loss which the artists had to suffer should be compensated by the Arunachal Pradesh government.”

Singer Zubeen Garg said: “The government has to ensure that such incidents don’t recur in future. Artistes don’t have any insurance. They invest lakhs of rupees only in instruments.”

Guitarist Priyanku Bordoloi said: “Protest is a democratic right. We protested against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019. However, the protestors should see that innocent people are not hampered. Damaging public and private property is not going to solve any problem. It’s a total failure on the part of the Arunachal Pradesh Government. We went there at the request of the Arunachal Pradesh Government. Providing us security is their bounden duty. The Assam Government is yet to utter any word. It’s the duty of Dispur to be on the side of Assam artistes.”

The torched sound system that was taken by the Arunachal Pradesh Government from Assam for holding the festival is worth Rs 2.5 crore.