Ram Lila fairs, organised in various places in New Delhi, are too close to the Commonwealth Games for comfort, says an overburdened Delhi Police, which want these rescheduled. But that may be easier said than done.
To limit their security load during the Games from October 3 to 14, police have issued advisories to Ram Lila organisers to reschedule the fairs, which are held simultaneously with stage performances on the Hindu epic Ramayana.
Police want these to be curtailed and held after the sporting event.
But the suggestion has not gone down well with Ram Lila organisers, who claim they have already chalked out plans for the annual 10-day festivities in the run up to the Dussehra festival on October 17.
Ram Lila committees in the capital are unwilling to relent and are all set to hold the fairs during the Games, claiming these have religious significance and have been hosted since the Mughal era.
Police are planning to come up with a list of dos and don'ts in the next couple of days for the Ram Lila committees.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Saagarpreet Hooda said nobody is above the law and everybody has to abide by it. "We will finalise the dos and don'ts for the Ram Lila committees during the Commonwealth Games in the next few days," Hooda told IANS.
Not only this, if the Ram Lila committees go ahead with their plan, their office-bearers can be prosecuted, he said.
"If they don't follow the guidelines, they would be booked. Every year we provide security to them, but this year due to the Commonwealth Games we asked them to reschedule the fairs and organise them after Oct 15," said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Jaspal Singh.
He also hinted that they were considering not granting permission for holding the fairs during Ram Lilas.
Subhash Goyal of the Luv Kush Ram Lila Committee said Ram Lila and the fairs were inseparable parts of Dussehra festivities near Red Fort. "It has been a tradition for many years. How can we stop just for the sake of the Games?" he asked.
He claimed that providing security at their venue had never been a load for the police as they had been managing it on their own for several years. "When have police provided us the security? Every time we provide our own volunteers for security," Goyal told IANS.
He said nearly 300 volunteers were deployed every year from the committee.
More than 1,000 Ram Lila performances are organised in the capital every year. At least, four of these are organised in Old Delhi. The fairs that take place alongside have food stalls, games and other entertainment for families.
Sukhveer Sharan Aggarwal, president of the Delhi Ram Lila committees, said there was no clash between the Games and Ram Lilas, which would also provide an opportunity to show visitors coming for the sporting event the rich culture and tradition of the country.
"We have been in touch with hotel associations and embassies so that visitors from abroad get a chance to know about the Ram Lila and the significance of the fair attached to it, he said.
Aggarwal also added that the fair is important as people who come to see Ram Lila performances also want to have fun. "For the sake of the Commonwealth Games you cannot lock people in their houses and not allow them to participate in a religious fair which has been organised for the past many centuries," he said.
He said they were planning to inform the people visiting from abroad about Ram Lilas and also gift them copies of the Ramayana so that they get to know more about the Indian tradition.
"It's an opportunity for us to make people aware about the Indian tradition through Ram Lilas," Aggarwal told IANS.
Dheeraj Bansidhar, who organises the Dharmik Ram Lila at the Parade Ground, said, "We are yet to receive any intimation from police.
"How and why will they stop us from organising our Ram Lila? We shall discuss the matter with Police Commissioner YS Dadwal himself," he said.