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

A doctor and cricket fanatic who blogs at 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.