Hosting Hornbill Festival would negate efforts against COVID-19: AMK

Kohima, October 28 (MExN): The Angamimiapfü Mechü Krotho (AMK) on Wednesday objected to the directive issued by the Nagaland Tourism department to prepare for the Hornbill Festival and termed it as a ‘rude shock’.

The apex body of the Angami women observed that the order ‘takes the wind out of the sails’ of the frontline workers who have been tirelessly involved in the fight against COVID-19.

It highlighted the statistics issued by the Medical department on October 18 where it was mentioned that the positivity rate of Nagaland was 8.5% as against the national average of 7.9%. Citing similar data, the AMK said that “It has raised deep concerns that uncontrolled transmission has been witnessed and the figures suggest community transmission.”

Held every year from December 1 to 10, the Hornbill Festival this year will reportedly be a virtual event, owing to the pandemic.

Reacting to the move, the AMK said that the Tourism department has contradicted itself by saying “the department was in the process of working out modalities for holding the festival in virtual form besides participation of foreign and domestic tourists in the festival.”

It questioned the logic of tourist participation in a virtual celebration and also asserted that the health and lives of various artists of the State cannot be risked “to perform for the pleasure and entertainment of tourists whether offline or online.”

It raised concerns over the requirement of bringing in local artiste in hundreds from various parts of the districts at the festival site to perform.

The use of masks and maintaining social distancing in a traditional dance was impractical, it observed, while adding that conversely, performances in the natural form without masks and physical/social distancing would put them at risk.

The AMK observed that the SOPs and protocols are being flouted in public areas and markets in Nagaland. “If the present lack of compliance to SOP is any indication, there is not much reason to believe that it would be adhered to in crowded gathering and festivals, and proven right in the recent Durga Puja festival celebration in Dimapur, “it added.

It highlighted that educational and religious institutions are closed or partially open as per protocols which also restricts the gathering of less than a hundred in weddings and funerals.

AMK then questioned “why and by what importance the Hornbill Festival gets precedence over the academic or religious obligations, thereby risking health and lives?”

Offering an alternative suggestion, the AMK said that the government could organize an ‘entirely virtual event’ where the bests of the past recorded Hornbill events in different categories could be posted online and replayed.

The government’s adamance to organize a festival in spite of all the ‘red flags’ not only risks its artists, but perhaps exposes either ‘vested interest’, or ‘misplaced priorities’, the AMK stated.

It appealed to the government to reconsider its decision and cancel Hornbill 2020 “in the interest of safety and sanity and save itself the ignominy of being forced to cancel it by the public at the last moment.”