The Telegraph
Thursday , April 3 , 2014
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Tweaked dihanam to pull voters

Jorhat, April 2: The Majuli subdivisional administration is using a novel way to bring more voters to polling booths.

The lyrics of traditional dihanam have been changed to attract and educate the largely rural mass on ethical voting on Majuli island. An all-women troupe on a truck is roaming across the Brahmaputra island reciting lines similar to the tune of dihanam.

Dihanam is a type of religious congregational hymns recited by women and men separately in praise of the Almighty in Assam.

The Majuli Assembly seat is part of the Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituency that goes to polls on April 7.

The sitting MP and outgoing Union minister of state for tribal welfare Ranee Narah is facing a tough challenge from firebrand BJP leader and president of the Assam unit of the party, Sarbananda Sonowal, this time in the Lakhimpur seat.

Majuli subdivisional officer (civil) Laya Madduri told this correspondent that as dihanam is quite popular and revered by people in the island, the idea — to use the tune of such renditions by replacing the words to appeal and educate voters about the need to cast their votes in an ethical manner (not to be lured by unfair means) — was taken.

Madduri said the initiative named My Vote My Right is part of the Election Commission’s Systematic Voters’ Educational and Electoral Participation Programme and is under way for the last 10 days. It will continue till April 6, the day before the first phase of polls in Assam.

She said that the lyrics for the special drive had been written by the headmistress of Garmur Shree Shree Pitambardev High School, Renumala Dutta.

She along with 11 other women (members of dihanam group) has been provided with a truck by the administration. The truck is decorated with banners and posters and the women are appealing to voters to come out and vote. The vehicle has loudspeakers attached to it to be used at the meetings.

The SDO said the special drive would continue with meetings to be held at villages, markets, weekly markets held on a particular day of the week, melas and other places where people assemble.

Madduri said the women’s group is expected to cover 100 polling stations across the island identified out of the total 159 polling stations in the Majuli Assembly segment.

She said polling percentage in Majuli is generally high compared to other Assembly constituencies in the state with 79 per cent turnout recorded in the last Assembly polls in 2011.

“The women’s group is mainly covering polling stations where voter turnout was between 60 and 70 per cent in the last Assembly elections,” the SDO said.

Madduri added that polling booths with higher percentage polling recorded in the last Assembly elections too had been included within the route of the group.

Dutta told this correspondent that she had written five sets of lyrics and those were being rendered in dihanam style by the group of which she is a member.

She said negera (a traditional pair of drum instrument) and khuti taal (a traditional metal instrument like cymbal) were being used by the members of the group to carry out the rendition.

“We are receiving good response from people as a large number of people are gathering to see the performance,” Dutta said.

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