BJP MLA and state Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal left Hindutva outfits-red faced on Friday when he made it clear that his ministry has provided “non-financial support” to Sunburn Festival, scheduled to be held on a piece of private land on a hill in Kesnand village in Pune, between December 28 and 31.
Hindutva outfits have demanded a ban on the festival, claiming it is “against Indian culture”, and alleged that it encourages the consumption of drugs. These outfits have also claimed that the festival was banned by the Goa government as the organisers failed to pay due taxes.
Even leaders of the Shiv Sena, an ally of BJP at the state and the Centre, have opposed the festival. Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil, Sena MP from Shirur, has written to the Pune rural police and the district collector, requesting them not to grant permission for the festival. Patil even called the festival “government-supported drug tourism.”
During a press conference on Friday, Minister Rawal said the government is giving “non-financial support” to the festival to encourage tourism.
“If anything illegal happens at the festival, action will be taken as per the law. We cannot stop anything which is legal,” said Rawal, pointedly adding that “nobody has the right to do moral policing”. On the dispute between organisers of the festival and the Goa government, Rawal said he has not spoken to the Goa authorities about it.
Manoj Agarwal, CEO of Percept Group, the organiser of Sunburn Festival, said, “So far, we have paid about Rs 50 crore to the Goa government as tax. The dispute is only about Rs 1.05 crore, related to charges for the police bandobast. But the Goa government has already taken Rs 1.25 crore from us as deposit.”
On why the festival venue was shifted, Agarwal said, “We have shifted from Goa to Pune because of the negative perception (regarding consumption of drugs) created about the event and also because Goa is too secluded, due to which we were not able to handle things well. We still have the invite from Goa… next year we may again think of Goa as a venue”.
Representatives of a few Hindutva outfits held a meeting with Rawal after the press meet.
Meanwhile, the Kesnand Gram Panchayat has called a gram sabha on Monday to take a decision on whether a no objection certificate will be issued for the festival.
Case filed against contractor
Preparations are in full swing, under the protection of private guards and bouncers, at the site in Kesnand village where the festival is scheduled to be held. However, Range Forest Officer V G Gaikwad said, “We have lodged an offence against the contractor working on the spot for doing illegal excavation of forest land around the Sunburn site… we have also seized two porcelain machines on December 20.”