While the Assam government set a world record with more than 11,000 people dancing Bihu together last week, a few lines in one of the songs used caused a stir in the state’s Naga community, resulting in the chief choreographer issuing an apology.
On April 14, 11,340 artistes performed Bihu together in Guwahati’s Sarusajai stadium in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This was a multi-crore-rupee effort by the government of Assam to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for the “largest Bihu performance at a single venue”. While the performance made headlines and successfully made its way to the record book, it did not leave everyone happy. One particular line irked several groups representing Naga communities living in the state:
“Nogar sange sage bogai nu moi asilu… Nogai nu aloo kochu khai… Okora Nogake bhinihi buli matilu majoni oi Naginike bulilu bai.”
The adjective “okora” used to describe a Naga man translates to “foolish”, while the word “Nagini” used to refer to a Naga woman could be understood as comparing her to a snake.
The All Assam Naga Welfare Society condemned the lyrics, stating that they were insulting to Naga communities. Despite the controversy, the event made headlines and entered the record book. “We condemn the song performed by artist Ranjit Gogoi at the event to create the Guinness Book of World Records. We have noticed that Naga communities have been insulted in the lyrics of the song, using the words like okora Noga, Nagini, etc… The song intensely hurt the emotion and sentiments of the people of 10 Naga communities with 2.5 lakh populations living in Assam,” said the society’s president Shompa Wangsu.
Similarly, the All Assam Sema Naga Council issued a statement saying, “We the Naga communities are an integral part of Greater Assamese society and culture. We really feel proud to be part of this society, but unfortunately most of the time, we are being discriminated against in different ways.”
The All Assam Tangsa Students’ Union also criticised the song saying that “the sentiments of Nagas living in Assam since time immemorial are hurt” by it. Tangsa is a Naga community living in Assam.
After facing criticism from Naga groups, the Congress, which is the largest Opposition party in the state, has also intervened in the matter. The Leader of Opposition in the Assam Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, wrote a letter to the Chief Minister on Tuesday urging him to issue a sincere apology statement on behalf of the Assam Government to the Naga people. The letter stressed the importance of being aware of the cultural sensitivities of every community and avoiding actions that could create conflicts and safety concerns between communities.
While officials in the Cultural Affairs Department have said that the song in question is a traditional one, the chief choreographer of the performance, Ranjit Gogoi, has issued an apology. “I would like to tell my Naga brothers and sisters that the song was not sung with any ill intentions. It was sung with love. We have a segment in which there is fun and teasing and we sang this traditional song during that segment. This is a song sung since time immemorial that was also sung by our forefathers. However, you have been hurt. Because of this, I would like to apologise to all the tribes,” he said.
Source: The Indian Express