The severest criticism of Hornbill Festival is perhaps not in the things which happen during the 10 days festival period but in what ‘does not happen’ during the remaining 355 days of the year.
Nagas celebrate several festivals and most of them are related to work. For example, there are sowing and harvest festivals. Sowing festival is celebrated because there is sowing, and harvest festival is celebrated for harvest. But if sowing or harvest festival is celebrated without sowing or harvesting, something is wrong. If the State government carries out cosmetic works on the eve of Hornbill Festival, it is unlikely that people who suffer throughout the year for its inactions will suddenly cheer up on December 1, forget everything and join in the festivities. Nagaland needs to work much harder to deserve to celebrate the festival of festivals. We do not want to travel on roads painted black or splashed with water to avoid dust during Hornbill. We want the real stuff and we want it all through the year. We don’t want band-aid treatments and white-washed infrastructure; we want real cures and real solid development. We do not want to live in a temporary make-believe world for 10 days; we want things to be better in our everyday lives.
Hornbill Festival, year in and year out, kicks off in the backdrop of protests and paper wars: employees fighting for release of salary, aspirants agitating against corruption in recruitment examination, political parties and factions caught in paper wars, civil society groups protesting against illegal taxation by UGs, etc. This year 2017 is not an exception. The number of protests has in fact increased that it won’t be out of place to label the year as the ‘year of protests’.
For the tourists and first time visitors who may be reading the State newspapers in their hotel rooms or traveling in the interior parts of Nagaland, it is clear that things are not what how they are projected. Reality is harsh here in Nagaland. The journey of the so-called Naga caravan has been bumpy for as long as we can remember and our backs are sore. In our road to progress and development, the State and its machineries have a knack for getting things wrong. Be it recruitment/appointment and disbursement of salaries, development projects and infrastructure development, delivering of services and justice, or the behavior of public dealings, we seem to have the expertise of getting it wrong. Hardly any State-run machinery, institution, or project is operating at optimum level. Our development projects are often ‘in the pipeline’ and ‘file is under process’; the standard government replies for non-performance. Some infrastructure projects require major renovation even before the inauguration. It requires protests and ultimatums to carry out routine works, such as releasing of staff salary. When criticized, there is no shortage of responses, one being that people should not have negative attitude!
Hornbill Festival has a place and it ought to be promoted. There are positive vibes about it for which there is large inflow of local and foreign visitors. There must be many things where we get it right, especially in terms of creativity and organization. But if we are not careful, it has the chance of a downward spiral, like any other government project. We are starting to see signs of stagnation and lose of enthusiasm. Most importantly, to let people warm up to Hornbill Festival, we need to see real work during the remaining 355 days. To celebrate the festival, we need to keep our house (State) in order and get things right. We need to earn the right to celebrate Hornbill Festival.