India’s Hindus may do well to remember October 27th, 2014, this was the day when the judiciary of India sounded the death knell for Dahi-Handi celebrations in Maharashtra. Then again, Dahi-Handi wasn’t going to be the only one, Nag Panchami, Jalikattu and other Hindu festival celebrations were also stolen by the Supreme Court of their soul. The ferocious waves of protest by Tamil Hindus forced the Indian Government to pass an ordinance allowing the celebration. But Dahi-Handi, Nag Panchami haven’t been so lucky. Maybe centuries later in time, when Hindu culture and traditions are on the wane, the ascendant powers would remember these dates as the ones which were important milestones. These were the days when native traditions were outlawed, which paved the way for death of a civilization.
And on 9th of October, 2017 another such milestone has been surpassed. The most widely celebrated, may be the holiest of festivals of Hindus came under the hammer of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court under the pretext of curbing Air Pollution decided to BAN the sale of firecrackers in the Delhi-NCR region. This ban also came through the familiar way of a Public Interest Litigation in the SC.
Though at first glance it may seem like a noble decision, where the Supreme Court in view of the welfare of the citizenry of New Delhi - NCR banned the sale of firecrackers. It is rather suspicious that this ban has been put in place only up to the 1st of November. Maybe the Supreme Court knows the some magical spell which prevents the air from getting polluted after that date or maybe the SC would simply order the air in Delhi-NCR to refrain from getting polluted. (If the SC allows me the indulgence to have a God, I would say) God knows!
It has been proven in a study by the IIT Kanpur, which has been explained in detail here that the Air Pollution caused by Diwali is extremely short-lived (perhaps less than 24 hours). The noise pollution has also been brought down by controlling the level of noise a firecracker would make upon blast. But looks like the scientific data fades into irrelevance when it comes upon the matter of deciding the fate of a Hindu festival.
Not in any other country in the world perhaps would judiciary would so callously trample upon the freedom to practice religion. And ironically and in what can be only termed as a sadistically cruel joke of fate, the latest casualty is the most dearly celebrated festival of a majority. The Supreme Court does not hesitate to apply the test of essential or integral practices for the festival, where it is totally inapplicable. It would be hard to believe that the SC is unaware about the sheer variety in celebrations of the same festival throughout the length and breadth of India.
Playing cheerful approver of the SC decision to ban sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in a tweet called firecrackers “later unholy addition” to Diwali celebration. I just wonder how this would sound in his refined, airy British accent, talking about unholy additions to the native traditions (the accent being an unholy addition). Well if that is the case I think we as Hindus should apologize to Mr. Tharoor for not inventing firecrackers earlier (preferably a year of his choice) & also in the same vein let him know that our celebrations aren’t static and evolve with time.
A question for all Hindus to ponder is what remains of Diwali to celebrate, if the very method of celebration is under fire. If a precedent could be set in Delhi by banning firecrackers, it wouldn’t be all that hard to emulate it all over India if the SC so desires. So any sweet misconceptions of a person staying far away from Delhi should be quickly discarded. The SC needs to be shown that, such invasion into the religious celebration is not welcome. Celebrate Diwali with twice the firecrackers than normal. The SC which blames Diwali for Air Pollution needs to be shown with empirical evidence that Diwali firecrackers are not the pollutants, but its uninvited gaze into Hindu religion is. Sponsor a scientific study or at least encourage a study which would point out exactly factual results to the SC.As kids of the Generation X we have been passed this beautiful legacy of celebrating this festival of lights with lights and crackers, let us fight to pass it on.
We all must bear in mind the fact that a civilization is known for its strength by the kinds of travesty it is willing to forgive, but also the ability to forgive too much is construed as a failing and brings upon eventual downfall. We Hindus have forgiven and forgotten too much, perhaps to such an extent that the idea of displeasure at something is scoffing. But history won’t judge us kindly if we don’t take a stand here and draw a line. As for the SC, your lordships, Thank you for making one of the most joyous days of the year lugubrious for a billion Hindus.