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Meghalaya roots for its own
- Nightlong campaign for Amit, forum appeals for calm

Shillong, Sept. 22: “I am what I am because of you all. Whatever be the result tomorrow, I owe everything to you all,” is what Amit Paul, Shillong’s singing sensation and the new youth icon of the Northeast, had to say to his fans on the eve of Indian Idol final.

Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph over the cellphone of an aide from Delhi tonight, Amit said he was “overwhelmed by the love and affection showered on me”.

“I cannot express my feelings in words. I just want to tell all those who have stood by me that I love you all. The result is immaterial now as I have got what a performer always strives for…the love and affection of people.

“I am trying very hard to perform well, to sing well and not let down my fans. But the people must also keep a check on their emotions as winning and losing is part of life. I will continue to sing for my fans,” he added.

Amit’s words found an echo in the hills of Meghalaya as the Shillong Art & Music Lovers’ Forum, which has been spearheading the vote-for-Amit campaign, made a passionate appeal to the people of the city and the state to sportingly accept whatever be the result.

“The forum appeals to all fans, friends, well-wishers and supporters of Amit Paul that whatever result comes on September 23, they should accept the mandate of the people of the country sportingly,” a member of the forum said at a news conference here today.

On the eve of the grand finale of Sony TV’s musical reality show, Indian Idol III, which will make either Amit or his rival Prasant Tamang from Darjeeling, the hero, unity, peace and harmony have become the leitmotif of the frenetic campaign for the son of the soil.

Despite the tremendous support for Amit from all sections of the people, there is a lurking apprehension that some of his overzealous fans may not be able to accept anything short of a victory.

Such frenzy, many feel, could create law and order problems in the capital, inhabited by different ethnic communities.

Highlighting the fact that Amit has become the brand ambassador for Meghalaya and a symbol of harmony, the forum appealed to the people to “maintain the present environ of calm and amity among all sections of society”.

Meghalaya chief minister D.D. Lapang has openly come out in support of the local boy. He has, however, asked bar-owners in the state to down shutters when the show is aired to prevent people from going overboard.

East Khasi Hills superintendent of police A.R. Mawthoh said, “All possible steps have been taken to ensure that there is no breakdown in law and order”.

“From the very beginning (of the campaign in Shillong), we have been very watchful. We have now deployed additional security personnel in the city,” he added.

Official sources said Meghalaya chief secretary Ranjan Chakraborty convened a high-level meeting last week to take stock of the security drill during the final of Indian Idol III.

A member of the Shillong Art & Music Lovers’ Forum, however, said the police had played spoilsport by trying to curb enthusiastic fans.

Police resorted to a mild baton-charge at Police Bazar late last night to disperse a group of Amit fans. The supporters were singing, dancing and campaigning till 3am in different places.

People signed on a giant banner put up at the Police Bazar rotary, wishing Amit all the best. Thousands of people took out rallies and processions all over the city, drumming up last-minute support for him.

Amit reached Delhi from Mumbai yesterday and was joined by his parents today. They left for Guwahati this morning and took a flight to Delhi to attend the final on special invitation of Sony TV. The final, to be telecast live, will be held at the Okhla Industrial Ground tomorrow night. Lapang is likely to attend the show as well.

If Amit wins, he will become the second singer from the Northeast to win a TV musical reality show. Assam’s Debojit Saha was crowned the Voice of India after winning Zee TV's Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge, 2005. Like Indian Idol, the fate of the Zee TV winner was also decided by public votes.

Amit, 25, who dropped out of school in Class XII to pursue his first love, music, has already become an icon in his home state and done what no one thought was possible — bridge the divide between the Khasi and the non-Khasis.

“It will be really sad now if we go back so many years once again in case Amit loses. Shillong and Meghalaya must show the world that music has healed the old wounds once and for all,” an aged Khasi woman, Sylvia Marwein, said at Amit’s house this morning.

Amit certainly is trying very hard. The 25-year-old singer said he was almost out of breath preparing for the finals. “Rehearsals, then technical rehearsals…the organisers want everything to be perfect”.

It can be nothing less, with the two finalists meeting AICC president Sonia Gandhi at 10 Janpath yesterday and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today. Luckier than most, they had Sonia’s undivided attention. The UPA chairperson dashed in and out of meetings to spend time with them and even requested a song.

The song and the “intimate” interaction she had with the two boys will be aired on Sony Television this Sunday live from the capital.

“She blessed them and told them that she was very proud of what they had achieved for the region and for the country,” Niret Alva, who caught these moments on frame, said. Alva is the president of Miditech, the makers of the show.

While the song they sang for Sonia is a secret for the moment to get viewers to tune in, it was Sonu Nigam’s Sandese aate hain from Border for the convalescing Prime Minister.

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