The city may be preparing for its first Formula One race, but it is on the verge of losing one of its most popular forms of car and bike daredevilry. As the Delhi High Court dismisses a plea by an organiser of ‘Maut ka Kuan’ (death pit) — an act where two and four wheelers are vroomed up to a height of 25-35ft on a well-like plastic wall as riders defy gravity to perform dangerous stunts — performers and authorities are divided on whether these long-established shows need to be done away with.
The organiser of one of these shows, Dalbir Singh, had challenged the revocation of his licence by the police which had earlier allowed it to organise the show, called Maruti Car Circus (Kuan), in Sultanpuri, but the court felt that such activities were too dangerous not just for performers but also spectators. The court stated that any mishap during the act could lead to a stampede, and the PVC sheets used are highly inflammable, thereby causing a risk of fire.
The performers, though, insist that there is no record of any major accident or fire at a Maut ka Kuan site, and that it’s a matter of their livelihood. Ram Prasad, 29, a stunt artist, says, "I earn my bread and butter from this. How can they just decide to ban it? Isn’t the traffic on Delhi roads more risky than our stunts?" Phukran, 35, who is in the business for the past 16 years and performed at the Greater Noida Ramlila carnival this year, says, "We’re professional artists with proper training. We know we have to be careful."
Billa Singh, the organiser of the Apollo circus, supports the view. "Yeh log toh artists hai, inki kya galati hai. Yeh toh logon ka manoranjan karte hain." The police, however, say there’ll be no relaxation on the check. "We had strict instructions to not allow such activities. So while we have heard it’s taking place in Noida and Gurgaon it won’t happen in our area," says Satyapal Singh, SHO Vasant Kunj.
What’s Maut Ka Kuan?
Literally translated as ‘Well of Death’ and also known as ‘The Wall of Death’, it is a carnival show featuring a drum-shaped cylinder, about 20-36ft in diameter and 25-35ft in height. In this, stunt motorcyclists and car drivers ride up high in circles and carry out tricks. The audience views from the top of the drum, looking down. Derived from US motorcycle boardtrack (motordrome) racing in the 1900s, the first such show took place at Coney Island amusement park (New York) in 1911.