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Extortion cloud over Hornbill fest

- Rebels demand cut money

Kohima, Nov. 26: The Hornbill festival — a weeklong eco-friendly tourism festival scheduled to begin from Saturday — is facing militant threat.

A joint venture of the Centre and the Nagaland government, the festival has been targeted by militants for extorting money to fill their coffers.

Officials of the tourism department, fearing militants, refused to disclose the total amount sanctioned for the festival but parliamentary secretary for tourism, Yitachu Pochury, said government has sanctioned Rs 3 crore.

“We try to explain to them (militants) whenever they approach us,” said an official of the department on condition of anonymity. However, he disclosed that militants demand a certain percentage, usually around 35 per cent, from the funds sanctioned for the Hornbill festival.

“We were successful in talking to some of them (militants),” the official said.

The festival is a collaborative celebration of all Naga communities at one venue and has been termed the “festival of festivals”.

It is a tribute to the great hornbill, the most admired and revered bird for the Nagas for its qualities of alertness and grandeur.

The bird is also identified with the social and cultural life of the Nagas as reflected in various tribal folklore, dances and songs. It is symbolically displayed on almost every tribal traditional headgear worn during the festival and is indicative of the unity of the Nagas.

According to the commissioner and secretary of the tourism department, Himato Zhimomi, over 1,000 foreign tourists and several thousands Indian tourists will participate in the celebrations. Hotels, guesthouses and pay guesthouses have been booked not only in Kohima and its surrounding villages but also in Dimapur and districts like Mokokchung and Wokha.

“The festival will showcase the entire spectrum of Naga culture,” Himato said. He said this year’s festival theme was “unity”, adding that the objective of the festival was also to facilitate the Centre’s “Look East Policy”.

Regarding the policy, the external affairs ministry and the state government will jointly organise “Indo-Myanmar conference”.

Himato said Nagaland would play a major role in the initiative. Around 15 MPs and MLAs from Myanmar will attend the conference.

Several foreign dignitaries will participate in the celebrations. Some of the major events during the weeklong celebrations include Naga textile art and design, a music festival, national rock contest and a cycle rally to create awareness on adventure tourism, Northeast Day, World War II peace rally, Northeast fashion show, Naga wrestling competition, film festival, Hornbill ball, Northeast riders meet, Northeast Indian academy of performing arts, motor rally, literature fest, an art and food festival and contemporary art exhibition.

Cultural troupes from the northeastern states will also participate. Nagaland governor Nikhil Kumar will inaugurate the festival.

Over the year, this festival has gained stature and scale and now has become a unique platform for tourists to witness the cultural diversity not only of the Nagas but the seven other states of the Northeast in all its wonder and glory.


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