Priests taking the palanquin of Lord Raghunath to his temporary abode at Dhalpur as week-long Dussehra festivities kicked off in Kullu on Tuesday.(Aqil Khan)
Priests taking the palanquin of Lord Raghunath to his temporary abode at Dhalpur as week-long Dussehra festivities kicked off in Kullu on Tuesday.(Aqil Khan)

Kullu Dussehra: Police use drones to keep tab on crowds, drug peddlers

Drones will be hired from a private firm and operate 24X 7 as they have night vision devices: SP
Hindustan Times, Shimla | By Gaurav Bisht, Shimla
PUBLISHED ON OCT 08, 2019 11:07 PM IST

Himachal Pradesh (HP) Police, for the first time ever, will use drones to monitor crowds and keep a tab on the drug peddlers during the international folk dance and religious festival, Kullu Dussehra, which began on Tuesday.

The drones will be able to operate 24X 7 and have night vision devices.

Kullu superintendent of police (SP) Gaurav Singh said the addition of mobile eyes in the sky will be a boost to the capability of police at the time when the town witnesses heavy rush of both domestic and international tourists.

“We will hire drones from a private firm besides the police already have one drone. Flying cameras will help police in keeping track of antisocial elements in every nook and corner of the town,” the SP said.

 Kullu Police have deployed nearly 2,000 cops to man the security in Kullu Dussehra.

During the festival, more than 300 local deities from Kullu, Sainj, Parvati and Manikaran valley congregate at the Dhalpur ground to pay obeisance to Lord Raghunath, the principal deity of the Kullu district.

Police have deputed the dog  and bomb disposal  squads to keep track of the antisocial elements  

 "This time 106 CCTV cameras have also been installed at critical points. Police will be in continuous contact with the CID, IB and military intelligence", said Singh, adding that the cops will use spy spectacles and hidden cameras.

As much for its cultural traditions, the Kullu district is also a hub for illegal narcotics trade of cannabis and poppy. The police have constituted teams to keep a tab on smugglers during the festival.

Lord Raghunath is the presiding deity of the Kullu district. More than 300 deities gather every year on Kullu Dussehra to honour him. Nearly 30,000 to 40,000 people congregate in Dhalpur grounds  for Dussehra festivities   along with deities.

 It’s rather entire Kullu’s deity culture revolves around lord Raghunath, whose idol was brought from Ayodhya in 1637 AD and installed inside the temple by then ruler Raja Jagat Sukh.  

Former Lok Sabha member Maheshwar Singh is the chief guardian of lord Raghunath.

Temple hit headlines during the previous Virbhadra Singh regime when lord Ragunath’s idol was stolen on December 8, 2014.  

After almost one-and-a-half months, long frantic efforts made by police, found the lord Raghunath’s idol under the piles of rock in Bajaura on the outskirts Kullu along the Mandi-Manali national highway.

Robbers had also decamped away with idols of Ganesha, Hanuman, Salig Ram and Narshimha. About 1kg gold and 10kg silver ornaments had also be stolen from the temple then. Police during the search had rounded up nearly 500 people for questioning and scrolled 1,000 mobile phones.

Call details revealed that prime suspect travelled to Nepal after hiding the stolen idols. The lord Raghunath temple, which is a private property of the scions of Kullu Royal, again ran into controversy in  2017 ahead of the elections.

The Virbhadra Singh government took over the temple and announced to convert it into a trust. Supreme Court stayed Himachal’s government decision in 2017.

Kullu Dussehra begins amid tight security

Himachal Pradesh governor Bandaru Dattatreya inaugurated the international festival, which began on Tuesday.

Manali MLA, forest and transport minister and chairman of the fair Govind Thakur said chief minister(CM) Jai Ram Thakur will be the chief guest at the closing ceremony on October 14 and at the cultural evening on October 13.

The MLA said, “Kullu Dussehra is famous in the country and abroad because of its specialties and it is the responsibility of the people of the district and state to organise the festival in an orderly manner.”

He said preparations were initiated a month ago to reshape the festival and organise it on a larger scale. Several new steps have been taken this time to make the festival more attractive.

As many as 331 local deities have been invited to participate in the fair, he said, adding, ‘Devlus’ (accompanists of deities, music players and a ream of priests) come in a large number with hill deities.

Proper arrangements have been made for the Devlus.

On the first day of the event, Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam and Suresh Wadekar entertained people.

The forest minister said eminent western singers and cultural groups have also been invited to the festival. The productions of Russia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka have been agreed upon along with artistes of some other countries to perform at the festival.

He said for the first time in the festival, nearly 2,000 ‘Bajantari’ (folk music orchestra players) will put together traditional instruments to convey the message of peace and cleanliness on October 13. Presenting instruments together is to save them from extinction and to make them more popular, he added.

The superintendent of police said more than 200 jawans have been deployed in the area this time. A total of 1,700 security personnel, including 500 home guard jawans will be deployed at various locations. As many as 90 CCTV cameras have been installed to keep a close watch on each activity of the festival. The festival site has been divided into 11 different sectors with one sector magistrate, one sector officer and one sector police officer. He said that special attention has been given to traffic and parking arrangements.

The minister said elaborate arrangements have been made to streamline traffic during the festival. Additional parking has been identified at various sites. However, he urged people to minimise the use of vehicles during the festival so that there is no inconvenience. He added that 40 additional buses have been provided which will facilitate movement of passengers to all places in the Valley till late night.

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