Nagaland is all set to celebrate its 58th statehood day on Tuesday and mark the beginning of its popular Hornbill Festival with strict adherence to the COVID-19 safety norms, officials said.

The statehood day celebrations will be a low-key affair, while the inauguration of the 10-day festival will be held virtually for the first time, amid the surge in coronavirus cases, they said.

“The main programme of the statehood day celebrations will be held with limited invitees at the Secretariat Plaza where Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio will be present,” the officials said.

Raj Bhavan will also remember the sacrifice and struggle of the founding fathers who conceptualised the idea of Naga nationalism and sovereignty, they said.

On December 1, 1963, Dr S Radhakrishnan, then President of India, declared Nagaland as the 16th State of the Indian Union.

However, the Eastern Naga Students’ Federation (ENSF) has called for a boycott of the statehood day events, demanding reservation of six tribes and reforms in the Nagaland Service Selection Board among others.

Deputy Chief Minister Y Patton said that the state government has already requested the apex body of students from Eastern Nagaland to withdraw its boycott call.

The Nagaland government is taking its 21st edition of the Hornbill Festival to a virtual platform as the various programmes will be telecast on three audio-visual news channels and social media.

The Hornbill Festival, held from December 1 to 10, showcases the culture, heritage, food and customs of Naga tribes at Kisama village near here. Sixteen tribal communities come together to celebrate their traditions with colourful dance performances.

More than two lakh tourists from across the globe attend the 10-day gala every year.

The usual hustle and bustle associated with the festival will be missing this year owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the officials said.

The COVID-19 tally rose to 11,186 in the state on Monday as 27 more people tested positive for the disease.

Several top leaders, including former president Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and diplomats of foreign countries had graced the annual carnival in the past.

Modi, dressed in traditional attire, had attended the festival in 2014, months after he took oath as the prime minister. PTI