The Hynñiewtrep Integrated Territorial Organization (HITO) has taken aim at the state government over the way the Cherry Blossom Festival was conducted.
The festival, which concluded yesterday, saw regrettable scenes on Friday evening when police fired tear gas to disperse unruly members of the public who were keen to get into one of the venues at the JN Sports Complex. The ground was apparently, according to the organisers, filled to capacity and, therefore, entry was denied to further people, even though they had reportedly already shelled out Rs 100 for tickets.
In a letter to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, HITO president Donbok Dkhar said that entry into the venues (the other being Ward’s Lake) did not go as planned as instructions from the government changed every day without adequate awareness.
“Other than one advertisement in some newspapers, the media did not share any information with the public nor did the department in charge do the same. Social media, instead of helping, created chaos with rumours of celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Kangana Ranaut and Amitabh Bachchan coming to Shillong being shared happily by people,” he said.
Also noted by HITO with opprobrium was that entry fees were charged for a government event; advertising material stated that this fee would be donated to charity.
Other issues for the pressure group, included liquor being sold at “exorbitant rates” and an “extremely unprofessional” and poor management of tickets and passes that, according to Dkhar, saw a breakdown in the colour-coding used to allow entry.
“Would you not agree that this in itself proves that there is no account of the people who entered the festival venues over three days and mingled easily without a care despite worldwide warnings of the new Covid-19 strain Omicron? Would you not agree that this is a sure trigger for a super spreader event, sir? If yes, then why was the administration mum all the while?” he asked the CM.
The denial of entry on Friday in Polo saw a few people try to break down the gate. Others destroyed property and hurled bottles at the police. HITO, however, described these youths as “exuberant young boys and girls who only reacted after they felt cheated by the organisers who sold tickets but denied entry.”
Terming it as shameful that the state government used force on civilians, Dkhar said, “The state government has repeatedly permitted events that violate all norms of decent behaviour, especially in the event of a worldwide pandemic. We hope that this time you will wake up and initiate legal proceedings against those found complicit in this event of gross mismanagement and violation of the law.”