Protests erupt after Leftist singer edited out of ‘saffronised’ Assam river fest’s theme song

Though a clip previously uploaded on the social media showed Subha Prasad Nandi Majumdar – an avowed Leftist and Sangh Parivar critic – along with 15 other singers, he was missing from the official video that state industries minister Chandra Mohan Patowary released in Silchar on Monday evening.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2017 09:46 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Leftist,Sangh Parivar,Subha Prasad Nandi Majumdar
The Namami Barak theme song being screened at its official launch in Silchar on Monday.(HT Photo)

The removal of a Left-leaning singer from the theme song video of the Namami Barak river fest in Assam has plunged the BJP-promoted event into a fresh controversy.

Cultural activists across southern Assam’s Barak Valley, comprising three Bengali-dominated districts, have expressed resentment over the last-minute deletion of singer-academician Subha Prasad Nandi Majumdar from the video. Though a clip previously uploaded on the social media showed Majumdar – an avowed Leftist and Sangh Parivar critic – along with 15 other singers (including Union minister Babul Supriyo), he was missing from the official video that state industries minister Chandra Mohan Patowary released in Silchar on Monday evening.

In the official video, Majumdar’s footage was replaced with that of popular singer-actor Zubeen Garg.

The state government is organising Namami Barak from November 18 to 20 in a bid to deify the Barak river, which – incidentally – is slated to accommodate a 1,500 MW dam in upstream Manipur. The proposed move has been opposed by green activists in Assam as well as Bangladesh.

Silchar-based cultural activist Ajoy Kumar Roy resigned as the secretary of the Namami Barak coordination committee of 34 cultural organisations in the area to protest the alleged “saffron censoring of red”. “Targeting somebody because of his political leanings is just not the culture of Barak Valley. I quit yesterday (Tuesday) as I did not want to be associated with a festival of this kind,” he told HT on Wednesday.

Parts of the video featuring singer-academician Subha Prasad Nandi Majumdar were deleted allegedly on account of his Leftist leanings. (HT Photo)

Majumdar, who is also the secretary of the Faculty Council of Science at West Bengal’s Burdwan University, said he agreed to be a part of the theme song because Namami Barak ceased to be a “BJP function” when “it was being organised with taxpayers’ money”.

He said everybody from the local authorities to the BJP and its affiliates were aware of his political leanings. “The organisers knew that people love as well as hate me for being a cultural activist with an opinion against everything I feel is not right, and that includes (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s demonetisation and gagging of secular voices. All I can say is: intolerance has triumphed. The least they could have done was inform me,” he told HT.

Theme song composer Debojit Saha, who won the Voice of India television reality show in 2006, hoped the controversy would not drown out the appeal of a qualitative piece of music that showcases the Assamese, Bengali and tribal cultures.

Though Barak Valley officials said Majumdar might have been edited out due to technical issues such as his singing pitch, former Union minister Kabindra Purkayastha made no attempt at diplomacy. “Majumdar is a professor. He has the right to air his opinions, but his unsavoury views about the BJP and its leaders are against local culture. He does not deserve to be in the video,” Purkayastha told reporters in Silchar.

Anand Prakash Tiwary, IPS officer and CEO of the festival, refused to comment.

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 09:44 IST