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Curtains down on ITM 2015


Finally the Indigenous Terra Madre (International Mei-Ranew) event which centred around discourses on food, farming, sustainability of food production, indigenous peoples nutrition and the ‘future they want’ discussed at break-out sessions has come to a close. On Saturday it appeared as if the entire population of Shillong city and its suburbs had congregated at Mawphlang adjacent to the Sacred Groves where the event was held. Traffic right from the venue at Mawphlang up to Shillong city was choc-a-bloc. Many who desired to witness the event returned without doing so. The narrow and badly engineered road created more problems. While the venue had enough space to accommodate several thousand people, it is the Sacred Grove that bore the brunt of too many footfalls on a single day. Entry to the Grove was billed at Rs 300 per head/group. No one grudges this as it is an excellent opportunity for the Mawphlang Lyngdohship  to earn money which will hopefully go towards maintenance of the area and rejuvenation of the Grove.  But the sacredness of a forest that was once a place of worship for the ancestors of the present residents of Mawphlang was, according to many, violated by the fact that visitors venturing inside the forest were hardly attuned to the meaning of the word “sacred” which also implies a reverential silence and an opportunity to listen to the sights and sounds inside that forest.

After the spectacular success of the great musical event NH7 which was held at Ri Bhoi District along the Shillong Bypass last month  it is time for the authorities to consider holding such mega events at spaces that have easy access and can accommodate the sea of humanity that throng such spaces.  Mawphlang has been a gracious host for the Slow Food Festivals over the years but this time the organisers should have foreseen that the scale of visitors would have been overwhelmingly large. This is a lesson for anyone wishing to hold a world class event. Easy access and ease of traffic movement are two important points to take note of. Traffic police did a phenomenal job and so too the Bouncers Association of Meghalaya (BAM) but even they could not have anticipated the population that turned up at Mawphlang on November 7. Those who had a VIP pass could get closer to the venue; others had to take a public transport or walk a few kilometres to get there. Much food for thought for future event managers.

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