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Sunburn returns to Goa amidst backlash from right-wing groups

After returning to Goa under the Klassique banner earlier this year, Sunburn is making a comeback to its erstwhile venue on the Vagator hilltop this December. Going back to its earlier dates of December 27 to 29, the three-day festival featuring EDMs biggest artists may just be the boost in tourism that the state needs, given the fact that the foreign influx typically seen around this time has taken a hit. This year, Sunburn returns with a stellar lineup, featuring The Chainsmokers, Flume, Martin Garrix, DJ Snake, Belik Boom, and a host of others. But all might not be hunky-dory, as the festival’s parent company Percept is facing major backlash from right-wing groups here in the state, forcing one to wonder if Sunburn 2019 is happening or not.

Sunburn, the anti-national festival

Yesterday, the right-wing group Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) demanded that the state government make Goa ‘drug-free’, ‘EDM-free’, and ‘Sunburn-free’. In an interaction with the media regarding Sunburn 2019, the state convenor for the HJS, Manoj Solanki, alleged “The ‘Sunburn’ festival organised in Goa has a controversial background. The police and the anti-narcotic cell have witnessed open and indiscriminate consumption of drugs during the event, although the organisers of the music festival claim it to be a drug-free event. Drug-peddlers have been arrested with ‘charas’ during the festivals conducted by the anti-narcotic cell.”

The victims of EDM

In addition to the allegations of drug use, to further strengthen his point Solanki highlighted that two women, namely Neha Bahuguna, 23, from Delhi and Isha Mantri,27, from Mumbai, died due to drug overdoses during past instances of the event. “This is a very grave issue. How many more deaths are we waiting for?” asked Solanki. While it can’t be said that the deaths were a direct responsibility of the organisers of the event, it does raise questions as to the security measures that are in place at festivals such as Sunburn and Supersonic, another major EDM festival that used to take place in Goa. While festival-goers will assure that there are a number of police personnel posted across the venue, given the thousands of people that attend the festival, especially on the third day, it is nearly impossible to keep on eye on the activities of everyone present.

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Outstanding dues

The final point that Solanki made was to highlight that Percept Media still owed the government crores of Rupees from past events. He reminded the people present that earlier this year, tourism minister Manohar Ajgaonkar had declared that Sunburn2019 will not be granted permission to organise another edition in Goa unless it pays the previous arrears of tax money owed to the government. According to the state government reply tabled in the state Legislative Assembly in 2017, Sunburn’s promoters owe the state exchequer nearly Rs 6.29 crore towards entertainment tax, police deployment charges etc. This amount is apparently yet to be recovered by the state. In response to this, Percept had moved the festival out of Goa citing exorbitant fees being levied at all levels. 

Since the very first event, Sunburn has faced difficulties in Goa regarding permissions on a yearly basis, and this time it seems Sunburn 2019 is no different. It remains to be seen how the organisers of the event are going to handle this new roadblock, and whether or not the event is going to take place smoothly. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

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