Basant is banned for the right reasons

Published: February 9, 2011

I cannot advocate the continuation of a festival that results in so many deaths.

I have vivid memories of Basant.  Everyone would be caught up in the spirit and festivities of the season. Maybe it’s because all one really needed to celebrate was a long string and a kite. And if you still couldn’t afford that, you could snatch one that’s drifting awayin the sky.

But alas, the festival which once attracted tourists from far and wide to Lahore is now a thing of the past.

Anger at the government’s ban

The Punjab government’s decision to ban Basant sparked a hot debate on Twitter. Pro-Basant activists believe the onus is on the government to provide security for citizens and that the ban deprives citizens of cultural recreation. One tweet blamed the ghost of the Zia regime that for the death of the only true festival of the soil.

I wish some of these people had witnessed the scenes in the emergency room of a government hospital in Lahore on the last Basant day to understand the real reasons for this festival’s demise. I cannot advocate the continuation of this festival.

Here’s why:

1. Deadly wires

There is a cry for banning string that has been coated with glass or is made of wire as this results in hundreds of deaths each season, but this has failed.

In Lahore, where the crime rate is on the rise, it’s unreasonable to pin our hopes on the incompetent police.  It is unlikely that they will put in the effort required to stop the illegal manufacturing and sales of metal string.

2. Falling to their death

The fishnets and metallic wires are not the only problem. During the festival, people are up on their rooftops flying kites but there are thousands of houses in Lahore that do not have guard railings to prevent people from falling. I can sympathise with a child who sees the sky littered with kites, and wants to fly his with all the obstacles in the way; maneuvering it to avoid electricity wires and trees, taping and re-taping the kite constantly as it rips after every failed attempt. The temptation to secretly climb the roof is far too great. That is why hundreds of children and adults fall off rooftops every Basant. Many die, many break limbs while others are left paralysed.  What can the government do to fix this problem?

3. Basant is fun for the rich

People riding bicycles and motorcycles are inconvenienced on Basant, as they are not allowed to drive their vehicles.  It’s an unfair law that applies only to people belonging to a low socio-economic class.  It’s like saying,

“If you don’t own a car, too bad – you can’t go out.”

4. Aerial firing

Another problem is of people accidentally getting shot. I can recall stories of people firing into the sky and the bullets eventually piercing right through an innocent bystander’s skull.

We really have no one to blame except for ourselves for this ban.  It is the collective failure of the entire city to crack down on the Basant grinches and force authorities to take action against them. Perhaps it’s a fitting punishment for losing the real essence of a festival that once used to bring people together in celebration.

said.chaudhry

Said Chaudhry

A doctor and cricket fanatic who blogs at saidcanblog.blogspot.com and tweets @saidation

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ali

    I can understand the reasons. Could the govt. maybe not restrict kite flying to certain parks only?Recommend

  • http://kashifiat.wordpress.com/ Hamza Baloch

    You are against basnet.. You are a Islamist :PRecommend

  • Singh

    Then ban every movement which kill score or people everyday. It is childish to ban a festivity than finding safe way to celebrate. Sorry you are wrong with limitied thinking.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    Sir, according to your brilliant logic, the driving of cars and air travel should be banned too. Also note that the bricks used to construct houses are made in kilns which result in the poisoning of ‘a lot’ of people so living in houses should be banned too.

    Point being, yes there are a lot of downsides to kite flying, as there are to everything else, yet we have institutes and government bodies designated to ‘manage’ the parameters and make sure that everything is regulated properly.

    By coming up with this absurd notion of banning a traditional festival, what’s basically being done is reducing the work load of our already fat government officers and the discrimination of an important sect of people.Recommend

  • H I

    Couldn’t agree with you more.
    All these ppl are writing against the ban,coz they didnt have a family member killed or seriously wounded due to this silly ”cultural sport”
    If one MUST celebrate basant, then it should be limited to a designated area/parkRecommend

  • faraz

    Ban on basant also affected thousands of poor people who were in the kite making businessRecommend

  • saad

    basant is un islamicRecommend

  • parvez

    You are supporting the ban which is one way of dealing with the problems stated. Its not necessarily the right way, but as you say the other ways have been tried and have failed.
    So if in this way we save lives, I think you have a credible argument and I would agree with you. Recommend

  • saad

    we should go and ask the family member of those who have died….all those who r supporting basant what if ur family member dies lyk this….those who support it ,u r not the only 1 who is residing in punjab u should respect the views of others ..this kills a lot of ppl in our country so its gud v have put a bann on such a foolish festival …..u get nothing out of it except fun and death news…though basant sucks……..Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    Another foolish decision by shabaz shareef to go with one dish policy, wedding time
    Caps, cng load shading, the list goes on……..Recommend

  • CB Guy

    I agree with the ban. There should be limited permission in specified areas to fly kites and that too outside the heavily populated areas. It were after all the people who continued using illegal strings without any thought of others safety. Police may be incompetent but it wouldn’t be easy to tackle every law breaker in a city nearing 10 million.

    And as for bike accidents, a very dear friend of mine suffered a harsh cut on the arm while ridding a bike in wee hours of the night from a string. He was lucky to survive but not every one is. We should thank ALLAH for sparing us from such anguish of loosing a loved one to a string from a paicha. Everyone talks about enlightenment, may be we can start from basant to do things the right way instead of breaking laws ourselves and then whining about everything that is wrong. Recommend

  • Rabia

    great arguments – they are equally applicable to Hajj – afterall there are many deaths every year due to Hajj that would be entirely preventable by banning it. I doubt you support banning of Hajj, though. Recommend

  • Atif

    @nicholas:No Sir, planes and cars help people travel and if you use your mind a bit you ll realise that considering the number of car and air travels the deaths caused are far less. Whereas Basant is a festival, just a stupid festival which causes deaths. Losing someone in air crash is understandable, but can you imagine death of someone you love for someones festival. Recommend

  • Gene

    Rabia how do you compare a religious pilgrimage to a cultural festival? It’s one thing to die while doing haj, it’s another to fall off a roof while dancing or trying to reach out for a drifting kite. I wonder if you would share the same sentiments if one of your family members was walking home one day and had their head decapitated. Would you console your family members by saying its perfectly okay, it’s just like dying at haj? Recommend

  • http://delhi Arindom

    yeah, true

    Ban driving >> people get killed in road accidents
    Ban houses >> they collapse during earthquakes
    Ban swimming >> people drown
    Ban eating >> people may get poisoned
    Ban breathing >> health is damaged due to pollution.
    c’mon state the real reason please!!!!Recommend

  • Atif

    @Rabia: , Hajj is very sacred how can you compare it with flying kites. My advice goto emergency ward on basant and see how a throat slit looks. Recommend

  • Quratulain

    I agree with the ban. 20 years ago, basant was celebrated with less indulgence and fervor. It seemed that people took to the roofs and kite flying activity as a past time and were hardly concerned with not losing their kite to another person. This has changed significantly and certainly requires a ban.

    Sadly, we as a nation do not adhere to any laws and regulations. We are to blame for not following regulations and then facing bans. If only we exercised some restraint we would be better off. Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/ow.radio Omar Wynne

    Why does Basant have to be associated with kite flying? Isn’t it really about being festive? About the arrival of spring? We should come up with some other activity to indulge in to CELEBRATE basant.

    Water fights, tug of war, sack races, I don’t know. I am very confident we can come up with a win-win situation whereby the kite haters AND wana-have-fun types can both be happy.

    skip roping? food fights? no wait, there is no food. You get my point don’t you!? Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/ask-super-sis/ Selina Gilani – Relationship

    Basant is an awesome festival. You cannot ban basant. The use of deadly wires should be ban. Take the example of a knife, you can cut an apple or kill a man with the same knife, so what should you ban?? a knife or its wrong use?? think about it dear.Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/2011/02/10/why-love-relationships-fail/ Selina Gilani – Relationship

    @Rabia: Hajj is a religious event and basant is a cultural event. Both have their importance but they both cannot be compared with each other. I think you should reconsider your point of argument. One more thing, deaths on hajj are desirable by many muslims but not on basant.Recommend

  • HSN KH

    @Gene:
    NIC THINKINGRecommend

  • IZ

    I agree. Also whenever we win a cricket match and also often during weddings there is aerial firing which often results in deaths. Cricket matches and weddings should be banned too.

    Or maybe we could ban aerial firing? Naah…Recommend

  • http://na deep

    Granted that deaths occur. But what should trouble you is the ease with which the people have fallen in line with the ban barring the late Salman Taseer. Here again, Pakistan has lost a great source of revenue. In the city of Ahmedabad, during Basant, there is an international kite flying festival. It attracts tourists from around the world.
    Ban is not the answer – In that sense the Muharram processions should be banned because it provokes suicide bombers and results in deaths.
    The succumbing to bigotry should not be overlooked. There are ways to make the festival safe. Basant is celebrated throughout India in different forms – some very traditional, some largely cultural – but mostly fun. Why deny people fun? Surely there are open fields in Lahore that can host such gatherings?Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    Brilliant arguments people. Ban something you’re not personally affiliated with because it does not effect you.

    Police and our provincial governments are there for a reason, that is law enforcement. Just because they’ve failed to regulate themselves properly doesn’t mean you ban the whole thing altogether. Absolutely ridiculous.

    Since we’re going with emotional blackmail and sitting here trying to speak for people who’ve lost someone during the festival of basant, I’m sorry but thats not your place. Those people died because our Government and Police failed at their job, not because of a festival. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    Btw, more people die due to car accidents than due to strings and falling off balconies. That is fact.

    Oh and while we’re at it, why don’t we ban industrial work too? The Government has failed to enforce any kind of labor laws due to which many of the workers get exploited, raped and killed. Far more than the number of people dying because of Basant.

    I personally believe this law is another attack on our culture’s heritage and sadly it is backed by people who have no affiliation with the people.Recommend

  • v r use 2 seeing bloods in basnt

    ..all basnt lovers should atleast aftr celebrating basnt should visit a hospital and see how ppl die nd their families mourn and this day turns out 2 b a pain for their family members till they go to their graves…..we call our self muslims and r also ready 2 hurt the sentiiments of such families by celebrating it every year….pray that u our ur family member does not become a victim of this thing….Recommend

  • MAD

    @Singh:

    lots of words but none that make sense. Basant is a waste of life, of time and not to imention the immense damage caused as a result. If im not mistaken many el;ectricity transformers tend to short circuit due to Kites bumping into wires etc etc.Recommend

  • MAD

    @Deen Sheikh:

    I thought there was a court order banning kite flying in place? Whats Shahbaz Shareef suppossed to do, commit contempt of court????Recommend

  • Atif

    @Nicholos: Dude seriously, I didnt compare the no of deaths by kites and cars. During a basant the casualties will be more kite related than traffic accidents. You are just arguing stupidly, If we have issues with our govt system then its better we wait for it to be fixed.Recommend

  • Nicholas Sharaf

    @Atif,

    Since simple logic about loss of life does not work on you, let’s look at it from a businessman’s perspective. There is a huge business in Lahore, dominated by the lower class, who use the festival to generate incomes. This particular ruling has basically put them out of work not because their incompetent but because ANOTHER body is incompetent.

    The issue here is enforcement of laws which our authorities have failed to do and local businesses are being made to pay the penalty for it. That is illogical and unfair.

    Again reiterated, if the loss of life is on trial here then a lot more people die due to car accidents as opposed to people dying by a festival, any festival. Recommend

  • Knight

    @Nicholas – Absurd, Save lives and make business that dont kill. Why dont we legalise the business of hitmen, it ll help alot of people with making money. Recommend

  • Nicholas Sharaf

    @Knight

    Absurd. The business of Basant does not kill, the incompetence of law enforcement does. Try to seperate the two issues.Recommend

  • Atif

    @Nicholas: Why cant you wait till the body is made competent enough to prevent deaths? How can you make them competent by deaths? You are just arguing without any base here. Human life must be given priority no matter what. Basant isnt big deal, but losing some is. The economic factor isnt really that huge, I am sure people related to kite industry can find something else that is less bloody. Recommend

  • Anoop

    What an ill-thought-out Article. Dont you see the glaring contradictions here?

    So, anything which is dangerous should be banned(Lets assume for a second that it is the Governments job tell people what they should do in their personal lives and what festivals they practice). So, why not ban Hajj?

    After all many a hundreds of Pakistanis have died in Hajj in its entire existence.

    And, please do not give me this rubbish about Religious Practices and Cultural Practices. They both are intertwined and cannot be separated in a person’s identity.

    Basant is also celebrated on the other side of the Border in India, and flying kites is certainly not a Religious practice or mandated by Religion. But, nobody argues against it, not even the Minorities, as they see it as part of their Identity and Culture.

    By arguing against a colourful, vibrant festival, or the festival of the soil, as you put it, you have contributed to a tiny bit to Pakistan’s slide down the Extremist path.

    Congratulations.

    P.S. I haven’t pointed out the other contradictory examples where the act contributes to a lot of deaths and injuries but still legalized, in Pakistan and outside.Recommend

  • Said Chaudhry

    Thanks everyone for your opinions and thoughts on the matter. I understand the reasons why many people think it shouldn’t be banned. Putting the responsibility on the authorities is ideal & I wish that worked, but it hasn’t in the past. So, it doesn’t absolve us from knowing how capable they are of controlling the aforesaid issues. Hence, as responsible citizens we can not say “its not our fault if people are dying”, its always easy to lay the blame elsewhere. Failure of the govt to control the aforesaid issues is a failure of all ordinary citizens since we live in a democracy.

    Anoop, there is also no comparison between Haj pilgrimage and basant, people who die in haj are considered blessed, and it is also a form of closure & comfort for the bereaved families. I speak from a Muslims perspective here and since I was personally related to someone who passed away on haj, I can say this with some conviction. Second, I am not against the basant festival, i think its beautiful and joyous when celebrated in the right spirit. I also don’t think you understand how passionate and grand the festival of basant is in Lahore. Some friends who visited Lahore from Delhi a few years ago to attend basant said they’ve not seen anything like it elsewhere. If you have never celebrated basant in Lahore, you cant truly grasp the difficulty of controlling the issues at hand and so I understand why it makes you so sceptical of my intentions. Fact is, hundreds of decapitated heads going home to families otherwise unsuspecting is an enduring experience and one that can’t be ignored. To some, it’s all good as long as responsibility is not resting on their shoulders and that family is not theirs, but I suppose since I am a medical doctor, I’ve seen and had to counseled some of these families on occasions. And so my opinions forms after seeing both, the good and the bad, of basant. Recommend

  • Atif

    Anoop: Lol you are just pinching muslims in the hajj part to agitate them, like you give any care to basabt or hajj, you just wanna have fun :)Recommend

  • Kam

    @Anoop: Seriously dont play around with Hajj, You are doing it just to p* people off. Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Anoop: http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/7897797-102-dead-in-india-hindu-yatra

    Its very wrong to hit someones religion on the basis of cultural etc. Please do not incite people like that, its just not good. Its understandable that you cannot know importance of Hajj for muslims but for us basant is just something for pleasure and Hajj something very sacred. People have died in basant in vain, its stupid to have it unless we have proper arrangements to reduce casualties. Basant has causesed our power companies huge losses too (if human life has no value for you maybe you understand this) Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Nicholas : Well for now the basant kills even if the root lies in the incompetency of the government. Its a rational decision by the Court to ban it until there is a change. You have understood the point but you just dont want to give up on thr argument here. Sad!Recommend

  • ravi [india]

    @Said Chaudhry:
    yes offcourse sir and what about those jihadis dying for 72 virgins then they are also doing some sacred and noble cause……
    plz answerRecommend

  • Ahmed

    @Ravi: deal with em ;)Recommend

  • Said Chaudhry

    Ravi [india],
    Im not sure how it works on Indian newspapers blog pages, but while you are here, you should try to stick to the topic at hand. The article has nothing to do with terrorists or jihad etc.
    ThanksRecommend

  • Ajaya K Dutt

    Madrasa trained pupils are causing death and misery, now more in Pakistan than anywhere else. Pakistan must ban Madrasas.Recommend

  • Balwinder Sandhu

    An Indian quoting a Pakistani called Khan’s comment on another Basant related post. Such brilliant line I had to quote them-
    “”"”I am the seventh generation Lahori, born in Chunna Mandi. My mother was born in jogi mohalla, my father in bazaar hakeemaN. You non-lahoris have sucked the culture and laughter of lahoris with your mania for urdu, english and arabic languages and culture. Anybody who dont speak lahori language and cant fly at least a panj githi patang should leave lahore peacefully.”"”
    Absolutely brilliantRecommend

  • Balwinder Sandhu

    Dear Dr Said,
    Hundreds of heads decapitated- yes Sir, I would be very concerned about that. Please can you provide evidence of how many ppl are injured or killed in Basant every year. Also, how many were due to guns etc
    Regards, a hot topic !!!! Also can you mention that you are a non Lahori so that we can rule out any conflict of interest hereRecommend

  • Ahmed

    Pappi singh you always find ways to amuse us, what nonsense!Recommend

  • Dilip

    Religion creates attitudes and affect cultures. Thus some people are so solemn that they find reasons not to have fun….Recommend

  • H I

    @Rabia:
    What a silly comparison, ppl diying during hajj are considered ”shaheed”, those killed due to this Basant festival are …….Recommend

  • http://www.fattaurus.com Ahmed Ilyas

    @Rabia:

    What a terrible comparison…. Recommend

  • Anonymous

    @Said Chaudhry:
    Mr Chaudry. Basant is celebration of nature. And pray, why cannot it be compared to Hajj or Christmas or any other festivity. Is there any religion that is greater than nature? Islam prohibits idol worship but what is the ritual in Hajj if not an idol worship? And people die there in hundreds. So cut this argument out that culture cannot be compared to religion. If anything its more than religion.Recommend

  • MastMaula

    @Rabia:
    Good reply Rabia!!

    Would you ban every thing which has got accidents involved? Ban the ‘Life’ itself to prevent death.
    Kites flying is also practiced in India as well and accidents also happen but we think of prevention of accidents by educating people and not banning a festival of joy.Recommend

  • Anoop

    @Said Chaudhry:

    Replying late, better than never. The argument you put forward is regarding faith. Faith too is an option. Some people choose to celebrate Basant, just like some people choose to opt out of a Religion or choose to go on a pilgrimage(sometimes to meet their death). The issue is personal choice. Basant is a festival, you agree. The way people celebrate it should be their choice alone, not your nor the governments.

    The lines are really blurred in Pakistan, with the Government, Military and the Mullahs thinking they have the right to decide what is good for the people, what is not.Recommend