Guwahati: The Assam government provided security to popular singer Zubeen Garg following a threat from an ULFA anti-talk faction for defying its diktat against singing Hindi songs during the ongoing Rongali Bihu celebrations.
The 'Ya Ali' singer was initially reluctant to accept the security provided to him by the government saying he felt safer among the people than with a security cover, according to top police officers.
He said, "I go to places because people invite me to sing. They love me so much. I feel safe among the masses". Garg, who was provided with two personal security officers (PSOs) and an escort vehicle, later conceded when explained that the police provides security based on threat perception from insurgent outfits, the officers said.
All the districts had been alerted to make security arrangements wherever the singer had his shows booked across the state, they added. On the eve of the Assamese Bihu festival, the ULFA-Paresh Baruah faction on April 10 had warned Assam's singers not to sing Hindi songs in the cultural functions for the festival and also the organisers to desist from having dances set to Hindi songs.
Asking the artistes to resist the 'negative influences of Indian culture', the ULFA urged the singers to keep away from Hindi songs "to keep the local culture alive".
In defiance of the threat, Garg sang Hindi songs at the various Bihu public cultural functions to cheers from the crowds. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, noted filmmaker Jahnu Barua and actor Adil Hussain from Assam, who has achieved major success in Bollywood, came out in support of Zubeen.
Gogoi today Tweeted, "Music transcends barriers of caste, creed or religion. It should be allowed to flourish. Music can make the world a better place to live in".
On ULFA 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah accusing him of "not having Assamese blood" to allow the performance of Hindi songs in the state, Gogoi today said, "It is he who does not have Assamese blood. Else he would not be hiding in foreign countries to fight for his so-called cause. He does not have the guts to fight in Assam".
Congratulating the singer for taking a stand against the insurgent organisation's stance, Gogoi claiming the ULFA's influence was on the wane, said, "Bhupen Hazarika too sang Hindi songs at Bihu functions. But did that harm Assamese culture?"
Education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also tweeted, "ULFA is a problem for Assam... Zubeen Garg is one of the brightest stars of Assamese.."
Filmmaker Jahnu Barua told a local TV channel, "Culture and music have no language barriers. It is by way of cultural exchange that human civilisation has emerged. One should also learn to pick up good things from others' culture".
Actor Adil Hussain said, "Creative people are creative because they work with freedom". Asserting that he would not stop singing Hindi songs, Zubeen had said, "It is meaningless to ask someone not to sing in Hindi. I'll keep on singing in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and in any other languages. Music has no language and Hindi is the national language of the country".
"This is nothing new for me. The ULFA had banned me in the 1990s, too. I have earned nationwide fame singing Hindi songs. It is our national language. Who are they to say Hindi songs will destroy Assamese culture. It is an outdated and ridiculous idea," he had said.
"We will keep a strict watch on the Bihu cultural shows. ULFA cadres will be compelled to protest at the functions hereafter of those singers, artistes and organisers disrespecting our appeal and Assam's culture influenced by India's culture", the ULFA had warned.
After he sang Hindi songs in defiance of its diktat, the underground outfit on April 18 condemned him and warned they would not be responsible for any consequences following the singer's refusal to obey their diktat.
However, the popular singer continued to sing Hindi songs even after the threat in the week-long celebrations across the state. Besides writing, directing, acting in Assamese film and singing for them, Garg, has done playback singing in several Bollywood films, besides receiving the Best Music Award in 2005 for Bengali movie 'Shudhu Tumi'.
The Rajat Kamal National awardee, whose birth name is Jibon Borthakur, had bagged the GIFA Best Playback Singer Male (Ya Ali), Stardust New Musical Sensation (Male) for the same song and BFJA Best Music (Director) award for 'Shudu Tumi'.