Firecracker sale ban becomes an ‘attack’ on Hinduism in social media debate
Despite a set of compelling reasons and last year’s deadly smog in Delhi-NCR, the debate over SC banning the sale of firecrackers became a religious rift on social media.
The Supreme Court has reinstated its ban on the sale of firecrackers in and around Delhi before Diwali to prevent toxic haze, but try explaining that logic on social media.
Tweets and Facebook posts alleging ‘Islamic rule’ and ‘targeting’ of Hindu festivals started trending after the court’s ban on Monday. People who alleged conspiracy in the court’s order appeared to have ignored the toxic impact of firecrackers.
Dense smog in Delhi had forced authorities to close schools and ban construction activities after Diwali last November. That year the city struggled with its worst air pollution for two decades and air quality was categorised as “severe”. Schools had to be shut down and hospitals reported a rise in cases of respiratory distress, with elderly and children the worst hit.
Experts said fireworks, burning of crop residue in neighbouring states before winter, vehicular emissions and construction dust were the main culprits for the toxic smog. Preventing pollution isn’t a good enough reason for some on social media though.
A trader in Sadar Bazaar, Delhi’s firecracker market, believes Hindu festivals are being “banned”. A video of him speaking out against the ban was retweeted over 2,000 times.
Meena Das Narayan, who has a verified Twitter account and calls herself a Narendra Modi supporter, said she would rather light firecrackers than “cut a thousand cows”.
Best-selling novelist Chetan Bhagat tweeted after the top court’s ruling: “Can I just ask on cracker ban. Why only guts to do this for Hindu festivals? Banning goat sacrifice and Muharram bloodshed soon too?”
Others echoed his sentiments. “NO firecrackers in Delhi-NCR on Diwali as Supreme Court bans sale until November 1. But does SC have guts to ban slaughter on Bakra Eid?” questioned Twitter user Jagrati Shukla.
Another user, Shefali Vaidya, took a defiant stand. “Every Hindu household in Delhi should make it a point to get firecrackers from outside NCR and light them outside the SC!” she wrote.
To counter conspiracy theorists, there were appeals for logic. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor responded to Bhagat: “Your examples of practices integral to those observances; banning them would be like banning lamps on Diwali. Firecrackers are unholy add-ons.”
The annual episode of air pollution on the onset of winter has already begun this year. Farmers in villages of neighbouring states Haryana and Punjab have set fire their farmlands on fire, leaving behind black ash. NASA images showed stubble-burning has already begun and firecrackers during Diwali are known to be a major source of pollution before winter.
Delhi’s air quality has already started deteriorating, and PM10 and PM2.5 levels are gradually shooting up. With a health hazard in the making, the question is: “How did an environmental issue like banning firecrackers turn communal? Guess it happens only in India #crackerban (sic),” said Ashwin.
Others argued that the ban was simply a pre-emptive step to stop smog from engulfing Delhi-NCR. Some, however, pointed out that bursting crackers has nothing to do with Diwali and it is a practice fuelled by commercial markets.
Check air quality in your part of the city with HT’s Air Quality Map