Monday, Dec 22, 2014

Russia protests as Goa calls off music fest

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh 2 | Mumbai | Posted: February 2, 2014 4:32 am | Updated: February 2, 2014 6:57 am

The Russian government has registered a strong protest after a music festival organised by a Russian company in Goa was cancelled at the last minute after Calangute BJP MLA Michael Lobo protested against the event.

The Calangute region has seen rising instances of conflict between Russians and local Goans who blame the foreigners for undertaking business activity and taking away business from the locals.

The two-day ‘Great Live Music Festival’ was to start on Friday but the state government withdrew its consent at the last minute after protest from Lobo. “The music fest was to take place within 60 metres of Our Lady of Candelaria Chapel where the annual feast is being celebrated. Novenas are held in the evening and they would have disturbed it. That is why I protested against it. Moreover, the festival organisers did not tell me about the programme. I was not even taken into confidence when the permission was given,” Lobo said.

Lobo said he then brought this to the notice of state Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar whose department gave permission for the festival and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who ordered the cancellation of the permission.

There have been rising instances of anti-Russian feeling in the Calangute region in the past few days. Taxi operators in the region had earlier this week complained about Russians operating as guides in the region and luring away foreign tourists from local operators. A bus full of Russian tourists was also threatened by local taxi operators on January 27.

Lobo had earlier taken up cudgels on behalf of local businessmen who were protesting against commercial activities being taken up by Russians. The cancellation, however, angered the Russian government with a senior embassy official dubbing it as a “shameless gesture”. “We consider the disruption of the festival to be shameless and frankly unfriendly gesture on the part of state authorities,” Alexey Mzareulov, Deputy Consul General of the Russian Federation in Mumbai said.

In a statement on Saturday, the Russian embassy said, “The refusal to grant permission to hold it, made under a contrived pretext at the last moment, has angered many — Indian and international musicians, numerous guests — and contradicts the common sense. It will inevitably affect the popularity of this tourist region.”

“Such rash actions do not go in line with the intention stated by the Government of Goa to turn this place into a world-class resort. Moreover, they contradict the traditions of friendship and mutual understanding which the peoples of Russia and India enjoy… Further increase of hostility to Russian tourists in Goa, who make a significant financial contribution to the development of the state, must be stopped,” the statement said.

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