After mami Brahmaputra, now it’s time for mami Barak. River festivals are being organised to celebrate the true essence of qualities of rivers, which along with their flow wash away sorrows and sins of mankind while also serving as unifying link between different civilisations and communities. From the Egyptian civilisation to Indus Valley civilisation, the river has always played a domint part in shaping the destiny of mankind. River valley civilisations have always been prosperous. Beyond hunting and fishing, river valleys gave people the space to grow crops. The surplus of the crop grown, after conversion to wealth, gave the crucial fillip for human societies to engage in various creative activities. So it is pertinent to celebrate the river in its various dimensions, particularly the blessings it endows on communities. According to many historians who have studied the river, there were no spectacular displays of public and community rituals around the river till around the mid-20th century. Historical texts suggest there was a sense of submission to the river from everyone who had anything to do with it, which was pretty much anyone living in the region. But the evolution of culture with the process of sanskritisation and giving identity to a river has gained momentum in this country. Though the first edition of the much hyped mami Brahmaputra got marred by ture’s fury, this time it appears ture god will not play spoilsport. A series of events have been planned in the three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, starting with the lighting of 11,111 earthen lamps on Barak river as part of the 3-day fest from November 18. For the first time, the Barak valley with its rich art, culture, tradition, cuisine and tural beauty will be holding centre-stage in the country and beyond. mami Barak festival is expected to go a long way in bridging the gap between Barak and Brahmaputra valleys. In this context, Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal has reiterated that his government has put equal focus on the development of Brahmaputra and Barak rivers. In particular, he has spoken about rejuveting Barak as the river has great potential to revitalise trade and commerce with neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Regarded as the lifeline to millions of people of the region and a source of livelihood to many, the mighty Brahmaputra and Barak rivers are the most important tural treasures intrinsic to the economic and socio-cultural aspects of the State. The two rivers have been at the core of Assam’s folklore, inspiring literature, music and art. Lakhs of visitors from across the country and NE region had congregated early this year on the banks of Brahmaputra to be a part of the celebrations of mami Brahmaputra fest. President Prab Mukherjee while iugurating the festival had dwelt upon its role as lifeline of the people of Northeast. The festival had showcased the trade, tourism and cultural possibilities of the State along river Brahmaputra, with a number of events organised in the 21 districts through which the Brahmaputra passes in its entire stretch from Sadiya to Dhubri. Delegates from Japan, Chi, Thailand, Vietm and a host of other tions attended the festival, with the Central and Assam governments seeking to use the festival as a platform to promote trade and tourism. On similar lines, mami Barak organisers have invited a galaxy of foreign delegates and river experts. It is hoped the festival will mark a turround for Barak valley, which has long been neglected for various reasons. With Silchar taking the lead as the main host of mami Barak, there should henceforth be some soul searching among the powers-be in New Delhi and Dispur as to why the second largest city in Assam continues to languish despite having a central varsity, a tiol institute of technology and a medical college. The seven ghats in Silchar are being spruced up for the upcoming festival, but questions need be asked as to why Swachh Bharat mission is not having the desired impact on the town, why its municipality authority remains so cash-strapped and under-equipped to deal with civic challenges. Across Barak valley, delivery of government services in various sectors remains pathetic. Anyone who takes the highway to or from this valley suffers a nightmarish ordeal not likely to be forgotten in a hurry. Central entities like NHAI have miserably failed through decades in laying down crucial highway links or repairing broken down stretches. There was a time when ships used to ply on the Barak from Karimganj to Silchar and on to Lakhipur. So when will this river, desigted as tiol waterways 16, link up Barak valley with Mizoram, Manipur and Haldia port in West Bengal via Bangladesh, as has long been envisaged? The dredging of the river bed is slated to get underway with the festival, and should continue uninterrupted till the river transportation objectives are realised. After all, broad gauge rail link to Barak valley became a reality in 2015 after decades of waiting, and it is high time for a similar impetus to develop Barak as a busy waterway. This besides, the Sarbanda Sonowal government will need to deliver on its promise to build five bridges across the Barak, if the development benefits are to be shared equally by people living on its two banks. mami Barak should be a starting point for all these long pending endeavours.