“Bihu bol ke aaj ka din bilkul manda hain (Our income is very merged today owing to bihu festivities)”, says Fatima holding an infant in her lap, a member of the group of street dancers in Guwahati.
Fatima is the leader of the dance group who performs on roads for their livelihood. They belong to a nomadic group staying in Maligaon area of Guwahati. The performers are mostly 6 to 12-year-old children. By the time the children reach puberty, they are married.
“Nahin main school nahin jaati aur aap jaldi photo khich lo mera, mera baja bajane wala ladki toot gaya, ek naya lakdi dhoondna hain”, (I don’t go to school. Please take my photo fast as I have broken my stick to play this percussion, I need to find one more), said Salma, a 7 year old girl on being asked if she goes to school and will she mind to be clicked?
Her elder sister Sunaina runs to her from a distance. Sunaina, a 12 year old girl with a ring around her which she uses to perform stunts while dancing. She too agrees to be clicked fast.
On asking the adults in their groups about their whereabouts, they conveyed that they are leading a nomadic life for the last three generations. They are basically from Samastipur, Bihar but have the voter ID cards of Maligaon, Guwahati. But the present Government has cleared that only a voter ID card will not be enough to have your name in NRC. But they are untouched by the fears of NRC and NPR yet. What bothers them is a proper meal a day.
Festival for them is the day when they can earn better. “Accha kamate hain toh kabhi murga kha lete hain” (sometimes we earn a good amount, we eat chicken that day). Lockdown was farceful for them. Continuous police atrocities, hunger, threat of life, wailing children and aids from the NGOs were their daily routine then.
In the time of Bihu when the entire city of Guwahati wears a festive look today, the rates of fish and meat have touched the sky and a never-ending queue lined up outside wine shops, this nomadic community wears a frazzled look about their meal this festive day.