Meghalaya: Tourism minister addresses Cherry Blossom Festival date controversy
Meghalaya Tourism Minister Paul Lyngdoh (file photo)

Shillong: Amid the resentment expressed by pressure groups under the banner of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) Ri Bhoi, opposing the decision to organise the Cherry Blossom Festival on a Sunday, Tourism Minister Paul Lyngdoh said on Thursday that the event is not meant for anybody who does not embrace the idea of such a festival, and the government is not imposing anything.

Earlier, JAC Ri Bhoi wanted to meet the tourism minister but were unable to do so due to his tight schedule. The pressure groups are demanding that the government shift the date from November 19 to another day since this day falls on a Sunday.

Meanwhile, the tourism minister clarified that the whole concept of the Cherry Blossom Festival is that 90% of the footfall during such festivals consists of tourists from outside the state, including international tourists.

“This event is not meant for anybody who does not embrace the idea of such a festival; we are not imposing anything,” reiterated the minister.

“In fact, for Ri-Bhoi District to grow, we’ve chosen a venue within that district because a lot of opportunities will be available in terms of people doing business, having stalls, running shops, and providing transportation services. They will all be gainfully engaged,” said Lyngdoh.

He added that some people are opposing it, stating that Sunday is a ‘holy’ day. He asked, “Then what about the Seventh-Day Adventists? Won’t they oppose it being held on a Saturday, which is a holy day for them? And if you have it on a Friday, Muslims will object. It’s holy for us, so how do you run a state in that manner?”

He added that the problem here is that some people think they are more intelligent than the leaders they have elected. “In that case, why elect us? Why don’t they take over the government? You have a cabinet, you have a government that has been elected by the mandate of the people. As soon as you cast your vote, you think that you are more intelligent and have more foresight than the leaders you have elected. That itself is ironical,” said Lyngdoh.

The tourism minister suspects that there is a political motive behind this and that there are forces trying to impede the growth of tourism.

He informed that today itself they have the Director of Tourism from Orissa along with representatives from the seven states of the Northeast in Shillong for a tourism conclave. This is being viewed through the Indian Express channel globally, showing the reach of Meghalaya’s tourism.

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Lyngdoh said that they are not imposing this festival, and people have the choice not to attend.

“Are you saying that on Sunday we should close all cinema halls, bars, restaurants, and parks and push people to the church? Can the government do that? So, this is all rubbish,” added Lyngdoh.

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