As the winter intensifies, what is warming the cockles of people’s hearts is the promise of New Year revelry, to be closely followed by Bhogali Bihu feasting. With harvested fields taking a much needed rest, Rongali Bihu of springtime is a faraway dream. But not for Bihu organisers and artistes, who are presently in ferment over a Bihu dress code. The joint platform of Bihu organisers ‘Sodou Axom Bihu Sanmilani Samanyrakkhi Xamiti’ recently passed a ‘diktat’ that artistes would be allowed to perform only if they are clad in ‘traditiol Assamese wear’. Several artistes took to TV channels to vent their displeasure, while others stoutly came out in support of Bihu organisers at last taking a stand against ‘wilful distortion of Assamese culture with objectioble dresses’. The dispute is a hangover of what happened during Rongali Bihu this year during a stage Bihu performance in Guwahati, when a popular artiste was prevented from getting onstage because she was ‘not clad in traditiol Assamese mekhela sador’. Meanwhile, some Koch Rajbongshi organisations have questioned what the joint platform of Bihu organisers meant by traditiol Assamese wear, when different ethnic groups in the State celebrate Rongali Bihu with their own rituals and traditiol wear. They have also opposed the time limit of 1 am for stage Bihu performances, since established artistes will then hog all the time available, giving little chance to upcoming local artistes to show their mettle. However, those opposing the Bihu performance time limit set just after midnight will do well to remember the tragic road mishaps that have claimed several Bihu troupes returning home after late-night performances. The ULFA(I) too did not let slip this opportunity to renew its ‘ban’ on rendering Hindi songs on the Bihu stage, provoking leading artiste Zubeen Garg to comment that he would not perform if such strictures are allowed. Even as the spontaneous joy of Rongali Bihu is a fading memory in this age of crass commercialisation, the face-off between organisers and artistes with militants adding their bit, threaten to take out whatever fun is left in the springtime festival.
Bihu code brouhaha