Amrit Hallan

Diwali firecrackers: There is a reason for severe, targeted crackdown

Image source: Hindustan Times — children playing with sparklers during Diwali

What happens when you bust a firecracker?

Banning the firecrackers has got nothing to do with pollution or controlling the environment. There are many human activities that are worse culprits than bursting firecrackers for a couple of days.

The parali-burning farmers of Punjab cause much more severe damage to the environment than people celebrating a festival that is thousands of years old.

Image source: Down-to-earth

Hundreds of people get affected due to parali burning. The entire North India is choked for more than a month.

The Yamuna River is almost lifeless around Delhi. You do not see water. You just see the white, deadly foam like the white sheet that covers a dead body.

There is industrial pollution. There is traffic pollution. There is noise pollution. Power generation plants are one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide.

Then why ban firecrackers with such fanatic zeal? People are arrested. Shopkeepers are beaten up. Industries are closed.

It is the unabashed sense of celebration that is associated with the act of bursting crackers.

A firecracker is not just fun. It is a declaration to the world that look, I am celebrating my festival. Candidly. I don’t need to explain to anyone why I am bursting firecrackers.

When you burst a firecracker, there is a sudden bang. There is an explosion of light and sound. The sutli bomb shakes the windows and sets off car alarms. The rocket goes up in the sky and then explodes into a heavenly umbrella of sparks. The anaar becomes a fountain of illuminated droplets.

Once ignited, everything is unrestrained.

You cannot burst firecrackers half-heartedly. You either burst them, or you don’t burst them.

It is an unapologetic celebration of a festival. In your own country. Inside your own land. In your own neighborhood. You feel at home.

Diwali as a festival stands out among all other major festivals.

With firecrackers, it is the noisiest festival that creates a spectacle for the entire world to watch.

Nobody remains untouched by Diwali, no matter what your religion is. Everyone bears witness to the celebration whether you are a Muslim, a Christian, or a Sikh.

Of course, you can say that there are celebrations during Christmas and Eid, but these celebrations are confined to certain communities.

Heavy commercialization has popularized Christmas to a great extent, but still, there is a vast part of the country that does not even know that somewhere this festival is being celebrated. Mostly, it is celebrated in small, limited quarters.

The same goes with Eid and its variants. Even when multiple animals are slaughtered and there is copious blood flowing in the streets, it happens in mostly Muslim-majority areas and the normal population isn’t exposed to such barbarities.

But with Diwali, everyone, whether they like it or not, are made aware of the celebration. The festival is celebrated across India with gusto and without any inhibition.

There is no guilt. There is no apology. On the streets you see small children, adults, and even senior citizens, having a go at their favorite firecrackers.

Yes, there is pooja. There are decorations. There is giving and taking of sweets. According to their means, people wear good clothes. They buy jewelry. They go out with family and friends or visit each other.

But you find these attributes in almost every festival. In every festival people pray. In every festival people decorate their homes — these days local malls and markets are decorated with more glitz during Christmas than Diwali. People wear new clothes in almost every festival. Almost in every festival people buy valuable items. They go out to wine and dine in one way or another in almost every festival.

What differentiates Diwali from other festivals? What disturbs the homogeneity and the so-called “syncretic” cultural fabric? The bursting of crackers.

Only Hindus — the so-called majority population of the country — get to celebrate their festival with a bang. On the day of Diwali, they let it be known to the rest of the world that they are celebrating their festival.

This is what disturbs people. This exclusivity. This act of standing out. This act of asserting oneself and celebrating a festival that blasts sound and light into the skies and illuminates the existence of even those who don’t celebrate this festival.

How can this be possible? How come these people who are always supposed to be miserable and who are supposed to constantly apologize for their existence, become so expressive and loud during one of their festivals?

By demanding for a ban on firecrackers and by implementing a ban on firecrackers, they want to push the festival into the pool of homogeneity where it cannot be distinguished from the festivals of other religions. It becomes just one of the festivals. Celebrate Diwali within your boundaries, and don’t show it to the world that as a civilization you’re proud of your festival to such an extent that you make it loud and clear, literally.

Although my main focus is Diwali, this concerted attack is on every Hindu festival that is expressive and assertive. On Holi, don’t waste water. On Rakhi and Karvachauth, don’t indulge in patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Don’t celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi. Abandon the traditions of Janmashtmi. Curtail your traditional cultural games and fairs. It goes on and on.

Every Hindu festival must leave a bad taste. Every Hindu festival must come with a note of caution.

Have you ever seen the mainstream celebrities or our courts lecturing Muslims for indulging in cruelties during Bakreid when millions of animals and birds are slaughtered? They cut live animals in front of small children while the macabre drama of agony and death unfolds right before their eyes, desensitizing them towards blood and gore for life.

Millions of trees are chopped off all over the world during Christmas. I’m not talking about Western countries, but in India, have you ever seen someone lecturing Christians about the importance of preserving flora and fauna?

I’m not saying that Muslims and Christians should be harassed or lectured. But why is it mostly those Hindu festivals that stand out, festivals that are visible, hard to ignore, and in the case of Diwali, even loud?

They cannot stand the pride and the audacious spirit that is displayed during the festival. The concern for pollution is bullshit. It is this audacious spirit that is irksome, which must be curbed.

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I don’t care much about being politically correct. Things are just right or wrong and yes, sometimes there are grey areas in this is why we write, don’t we?

I don’t care much about being politically correct. Things are just right or wrong and yes, sometimes there are grey areas in this is why we write, don’t we?