A venue where, the organisers claimed, no other event has had to take permission, the authorities-that-be cited November 2022’s National Green Tribunal order to cancel the festival.
“The District Park has always been open for the people. There were no permissions required. We would have paid the money for using the grounds. Every year the Chapchar Kut festival is organised here with no objections ever. Even a bike gathering was held here for three nights. Why did they object to this at the last minute?” questioned Mr Lalhming Muana, vice-chairman of the Tlawng Fest Organising Committee.
“I may be the chairman of the organising committee, but I worked with my hands to set up stalls and a thousand other chores,” he said.
“I have not slept for a week now as we put the festival together,” said a morose worker—disbelief and anger writ large on the groups of people as they hung around discussing the whys, while contractors rolled up their carpets, dismantled stalls, and removed electrical fittings at the venue.
Earlier, as we drove through the winding mountainous road, large stretches still under construction, groups of young men and women in bikes and cars huddled together at the two-three stops (road had to be cleared) en route, utter disappointment writ large on their faces.
“We had all worked so hard to make this event possible. More than 90 percent of the grounds were all done up. All this is nothing but politicking. Unfortunately, there are always vested interests who put a spanner in the works. They have succeeded this time.”
“It is very unfortunate that the festival was cancelled so abruptly. It held so much promise for all of us—specially the youth,” said Ms Mapuii Khawlhring, an Aizawl-based entrepreneur who is into promoting rural tourism and working with women’s self-help groups to promote the traditional Mizo weaves.
Not only Lunglei, but the entire southern Mizoram does not have a single event or festival to attract tourists from within the state or rest of India. For the people of Lunglei, particularly the young, the last hour cancellation was a chance lost to get this mofussil town to reclaim some of its glory back.
The second largest city after Aizawl, Lunglei is a good 8–9 hour drive with huge parts of the highway in a dilapidated condition and many stretches still under construction.
Platform for the Youth: The two-day Tlawng Festival had been designed as a platform for young Mizo talent and to make the community aware about forest and water conservation.
The Tlawng river which originates further uphill from Lenglui and flows as a narrow stream runs into the Barak at Silchar in Assam, is the longest river in the state and is the key source of water for Aizawl, Lenglui and other areas. “The people of Mizoram need to be aware about the critical importance of conserving this river. We had audio-visual shows to educate people on how best to ensure that the river at any part along its course runs free sans pollution,” said Mr. Mauna.
Preservation of the pristine forests all around Lunglei was another focus area. “The forests are a part of us,” reiterated Ms Khawlhring.
The third plank on which the Tlawng Festival stood was the promotion of Mizo culture and tradition with music and dance apart from games like tug-of-war and a host of other traditional games that are beginning to fade from the collective consciousness of today’s generation.
The next editions would have incorporated the wrestling game Inchai which has almost faded out, insuknawr—a game played with bamboos; inkawibah—played with seeds of a tree called the kawi, and lots others, informed Mr. Muana.
The cornerstone was of course youth empowerment—give the youth a chance to showcase their talent be it handicraft, handloom, cuisine, fashion, music, et al. So, there was a Beat Contest with at least 10 beat groups enlisted for the contest.
There were stalls that would have displayed the brightest in fashion—a fashion designer Escape Engmoia had rushed back from Italy to display his work, Mizo delicacies, art, handicraft and lot more.
In the midst of all that angst and disappointment, there was also hope and a sense of positivity. “We will come back stronger. We will go for some other venue. But we hope to put this festival up again by November end or December,” affirmed Mr. Muana.
[Richa Bansal is Co-Founder and Managing Editor at texfash.com and Director (Projects) at inscriptions.in. She can be reached at [email protected]]