Dahi handi, which was celebrated in Mumbai with fervour for years, has now become the reason why the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance have daggers drawn against the opposition, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine.
While Congress-NCP leaders have cancelled their celebrations, blaming the government for the impasse over the rules, the ruling parties have accused the opposition for trying to politicise the festival.
Mumbai NCP chief Sachin Ahir, who cancelled his Worli dahi handi, blamed the government for the confusion. “We have been pleading with the chief minister to intervene and solve the issue by simplifying the rules, but he has not shown any interest in the matter. Last year, when our government was in power, we managed to get relief from the Supreme Court but this government is least bothered,” he said.
Congress legislator Krishna Hegde said the government has dampened the spirit of the festival. “There are so many restrictions on both height as well as the decibel levels that it is virtually impossible to celebrate the festival. The fervour has gone, thanks to the government’s attitude,” he said.
The ruling parties, meanwhile, welcomed the restrictions on the grounds that commercialisation has marred the event. BJP legislator Ram Kadam, who celebrates the festival with celebrities at Ghatkopar, said: “We cannot have people dying or getting hurt. The NCP commercialised the event and that has been controlled,” he said.
Sena legislator from Thane Pratap Sarnaik said the festival can be enjoyed even when celebrated simply. “We will keep the traditional fervour intact and the celebrations will continue. Our opponents cannot show their extravagance as they are out of power and so have cancelled the event,” he said.
Political analysts too said these rules were long overdue. “The event was more of a brand building exercise as politicos were more concerned about scoring points over each other by increasing the height of the pyramids and getting most number of celebrities on stage. Scaling down was the need of the hour,” said political analyst Prakash Bal.
* Participants: Last year, the child rights commissioner had ordered an age restriction on children participating in dahi handi to 12 years. Organisers and govinda mandals knocked the doors of the high court that ordered the pyramids should be restricted to 20 feet and minimum age of participation was increased to 18 years. After they went to the Supreme Court, the decision of high court was temporarily stayed, thereafter the petition was dismissed
* Adventure sport: State government issued a government resolution (GR) on August 12 where dahi handi was declared an adventure sport. Certain guidelines of the GR for the organisers included providing safety gear such as chest-guard, safety-belt, safety-harness, mats among others to the participants, children below 12 not be allowed to participate, no objection certificates from parents of children between 12 and years and standing on fourth tier or above and participants submitting an undertaking that they are insured to the organisers
* Restrictions: In order to ensure vehicles and pedestrians are not inconvenienced, the high court order ordered that the dahi handi organisers have to seek permission from the BMC for construction of temporary shelters. Also, the organisers will have to take permission from the local ward, police, traffic and fire department and comply with the norms of sound/noise levels
* Mandals pulling out: Following the restrictions, three major dahi handi organisers have backed out this year. They include Sangharsh (patronised by Thane MLA Jitendra Awhad), Sankalp (headed by former minister Sachin Ahir at Worli) and Krishna Hegde Pratisthan in Vile Parle.