Calling Hornbill Festival 2021 Off Midway Elicits Mixed Reactions

Industry Watch | December 16, 2021 | News

Hornbill Festival

The annual Hornbill Festival, which takes place every year in Nagaland between 1 and 10 December at the Kisama Heritage Village near Kohima, was called off on 7 December 2021 by the state government. This was done as a mark of respect towards civilians killed by central security forces in disturbing incidents on 4 and 5 December, following which several participants withdrew from the festival.

The festival, which returned after a break of a year due to Covid19, was launched on schedule on the day of Nagaland attaining statehood and is an important cultural landmark for the Nagalandese. It involves rich displays of local arts and crafts, The Great Hornbill Rock Concert, food, chilli eating competitions, dance, martial arts and more.

Hornbill is also a festival that the local tribes of Nagaland, local tour companies, event managers and others depend on for business. The pandemic had already hit the local economy and this curtailment is a further blow.

What have the local reactions to the cancellation of the event midway been? Some support the cancellation, while others believe the festival should have gone on.

We spoke with residents, tourist information providers, those working at Nagaland Tourism and event organisers to understand their feelings.

An official in Nagaland Tourism who did not wish to be named stated that tourists have had to change their plans. According to him, around 5,000 national tourists and around 30 or 40 foreign tourists came this year for the event.

Another official associated with the festival revealed that to make up in some form, tourists who came to attend the festival were provided free lunch and breakfast. For future events like Hornbill, the official mooted putting in place a proposal that the event should not be cancelled or cut short at any cost.

There is also the sense among locals that cancelling Hornbill was the right thing to do. Celebrating in an atmosphere of mourning did not feel right to many. Says Kevitsu Doze, Head, Events at the Synergy Group Enterprise, “Tomorrow the same thing could happen to us. Today we need to stand with our brothers who suffered. It is true that we have faced losses, but today if we don’t stand with those who are deceased, tomorrow no one will stand for us. We need to show solidarity with the rest of the community today. This is our way of showing respect to our brothers and to speak up for civilian rights… and we hope in future everything will go the right way…”

Seconding Doze’s opinion is another resident of Kohima, who adds, “We support the revocation morally. Laughing and crying don’t go hand in hand. The state spends towards the Hornbill Festival to empower local entrepreneurs, people at the grassroots such as the weaver community, and other home-grown businesses, but it won’t be able to recover the investment made this year. The fest is a platform for indigenous arts and handicrafts and today we are indeed emotional, and feel frustrated that everything got spoiled. But we support the cancellation and the Konyak tribe that suffered so gravely in the incident that took place.”

The festival that runs from 1 to 10 December was officially called off on 7 December by the state, following participants’ withdrawal in protest against civilian killings by security forces.

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