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The culprits of Asolpara

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The recent incident that occurred at a village called Asolpara under Chhaygaon police station of Kamrup district, hardly 60 km west of Guwahati, in which a group of villagers had forced female members of a dance troupe to strip, has not only brought bad name to Assam, but has also brought to the fore what is happening in the name of songs and music in the state. According to reports, a dance troupe comprising adolescent girls and young women belonging to a particular tribal community was invited to perform in a village inhabited by Muslims of immigrant origin on June 7. On reaching there, the crowd that had gathered to ‘enjoy’ the cultural function refused to watch the troupe perform traditional tribal dances and forced the female members of the troupe to strip and perform a dance. When the artistes refused to comply, they were heckled and physically assaulted, amounting to molestation, and one of the organizers reportedly even threatened of dire consequences. While this went on for some time, the members of the troupe somehow managed to escape, but were chased by the crowd which also pelted stones and caused damage to the vehicles which the troupe had hired to go to Asolpara. It has been also alleged that the organizers had sold tickets to people at very high rates claiming that the troupe was coming from Coochbehar in West Bengal to perform strip dances, that being the reason why the crowd was not ready to watch a traditional tribal dance. While the news of the incident has evoked statewide protest, a member of the National Women’s Commission even called up the Assam DGP and demanded immediate action against the culprits who had physically assaulted the female artistes that amounted to sexual harassment. The people of Assam however have not yet seen the Assam State Commission for Women taking any action in this regard. The Assam State Commission for Women in fact should have been the first to react and rush to the spot. But such a reaction is yet to be seen. Local politicians including the present MLA and a former MLA, who are not known to have contributed anything significant towards protection of women’s rights and ensuring safety of women and girls, on their part have only considered it as an easily available topic at hand to indulge in mud-slinging. Most of the top artistes of the state too have apparently chosen to distance themselves from the incident. While it is a fact that a very senior singer of Assam was caught in an act of sexual assault of a girl child participant taking part in a TV reality show in early 2018, rights-conscious people across the state on the other hand feel that a number of top Assamese singers sing songs that have lyrics that are sexually abusive apart from also being violative of women’s rights.