The 29th Karbi Youth Festival was celebrated with traditional splendor and gaiety at Taralangso, Diphu from 16 to 20 February. More than two thousand artists, folk singers and instrumentalists representing all the 22 cultural zones of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills participated in the unique cultural extravaganza. The Karbi Cultural Society (KCS), which is synonymous with Autonomous State movement true to its past tradition of representing the democratic people’s culture of the Karbi people, had to overcome lots of hurdles put by vested circles to make this year’s youth festival a grand success. To begin with, the Congress ruled Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council revoked the 4 days of festival from the official holidays’ list and ultimately agreed for a single day on 19 February only after public pressure. While an amount ranging from Rs.50 to Rs.100 was deducted from each employees of Karbi Anglong at the office itself for Congress Seva Dal conference, employees were indirectly intimidated not to help the youth festival. During the preparation of the venue of the festival, the local Congress MLA Bidya Sing Ingleng with the help of forest officials tried to forcibly occupy part of the Taralangso land in the name of communal forestry.
Against all these odds people responded in a brave and decisive way. To counter the financial hurdle different zones took specific responsibility to lighten the burden of KCS Central Committee. The Bokolia district committee took the responsibility of total food management, the Diphu district committee took the construction responsibility of the venue, and the Bokajan district committee was entrusted with lights and decoration. While Kaziranga district committee took the responsibility of posters and propaganda expenditure, the massive mike and public address system of the 100 acre venue was entrusted with the Hamren committee. The district committees on the other hand fulfilled their allotted responsibilities with regard to participation and collecting contribution from the masses of people. For example, unlike previous years the entire construction of gates, exhibition stalls, artist camps, dining hall (capacity 500), stages etc was completed with voluntary labour. People from different villages of Diphu area offered ‘Shramdaan’ daily for the last one month to complete the massive work. KSA and KNCA also mobilized their forces to participate in the ‘shramdaan’.
In all the four days more than one lakh people came and enjoyed the festival. Buses were ferrying people from Diphu town to Taralangso continuously throughout the day till midnight apart from hundreds of three wheelers, cars and other individual vehicles. Although no government departments were allowed to participate in the exhibition, the traditional craftsmen, weavers and artisans who in great numbers exhibited and sold their products, more than compensated it. A photo exhibition catching various moments of Autonomous State movement also drew large crowds. A huge 20 ft model of ‘frog and ant’ erected by local sculptors using commonly available material to depict a popular Karbi folk tale was a big attraction to the people specifically the young ones. Apart from the competing teams a host of guest teams representing various tribes and communities of Karbi Anglong also participated in the festival. The performance by the artists of Jan Sanskriti Manch from Jharkhand was widely appreciated by the audience.
The first ever Karbi telefilm produced by Karbi Anglong Film Craft Society was also released on the occasion. The title of the film was “Ove Aharchi” (Shadows of the Generations) and it evoked very good response from the public.
The competitions of folk song, folk dance, drama and modern song were attended by thousands of people every night. The festival culminated in the closing session on 20 February when prizes were distributed to the winning teams. Sri Nilomoni Phukan, a noted and widely respected literary personality of Assam participated as chief guest while Sri Chandra Kanta Terang, president of KCS presided over the open session. Comrade Harendra Nath Borthakur and Comrade Selawar Bey also addressed the session.
The entire mega event was conducted without the presence of a single policeman and without any single untoward incident. KSA volunteers 450 worked with clockwise precision to manage the show efficiently. All this stood in stark contrast to the “Northeast Karbi Youth Festival” organized by the breakaway ASDC group near Guwahati where Union Minister of State for Water Resources Bijaya Chowdhury (BJP), Assam Congress minister Robin Bordoloi and other ruling class politicians participated as guests of honour. q