In many parts of Pakistan, especially in Lahore, traditionally people used to celebrate the Basant (spring) festival by flying kites. But this tradition has been under the wire for a while. In 2005 a Pakistani lawyer contended in a Lahore court that Basant was not just a Hindu ritual but a lethal game. Other very significant objections included, use of deadly strings which resulted in the death of children and disruption in power transmission. Following the trial, the Lahore Court banned kite flying in Punjab province.
Every year when it is time for flowers to bloom and for spring to make its grand long-awaited entrance unconsciously, Basant is all everyone is thinking about. Many understand why the government deems it necessary to wage this war against the harmless kite, but everyone still wants it.
Recently the debate came alive after the Lahore High Court had set aside a writ petition which aimed to lift the ban on kite flying and the ruling observed that it was a dangerous activity. Raza Rumi at Lahore Nama still hopes that the ban will be lifted:
“Hope that this festival will come back to Lahore. We strongly protest against this policy decision. Pakistan cannot be made a safe haven for roaming terrorists and suicide bombers while the peaceful citizens are denied the opportunity to celebrate a festival that is so deeply a part of our culture.”
Hamza Ahmed Qureshi at Lahore Metblogs thinks otherwise:
“The hue and cry raised by a certain section of the society on the recent banning of Basant by the Lahore High Court compels me to bring forward my point of view.
These people mourn for the loss of a cultural event which attracted thousands of foreigners from all over the world. In the prevailing geopolitical situation, I hardly think that a bunch of colorful kites would be able to lure an already fear stricken foreigner to a death trap. Moreover this cultural loss might be a matter of concern for a handful of socialites and five-star hotels but not for the common man.”
However, Momekh points out:
“The ban on basant is silly. Loss of life and loss of the ever-so-present WAPDA supply are not reasons at all. And here’s why: the loss of life is not because the kite-flying itself is dangerous. Kite-flying has been around for some time.”
Momekh goes on to explain what made Basant a controversial matter. The blogger clarifies what issues the authorities should be addressing instead of canceling an event:
“The murderous streak now automatically tagged with Basant itself, has been introduced through the development of stronger string. A lot of people think that it is the razor-like solution that the string is soaked in that causes the string to be a knife-on-the-loose. Although the sharpness is part of the reason, the main reason is that the string itself is very strong. [..]
It is the combination of ultra-strong string with razor-sharp solution (a.k.a. manja) that makes the string a killer.”
If the government could set some rules and regulations against the use of such strong strings for this cultural and traditional event, this entertainment could for once not be made a matter of conflict. However the ban is very much there because of the new court ruling.
In this circumstances, the Pakistani kite flyers are even considering to take their kite flying to neighboring India. Despite the ban one can see hundreds of kites on Lahore's sky, which shows its popularity.
A private TV channel reported that 75% population of Punjab, the hub of Basant celebrations, wants kite flying. But the government and the judiciary do not plan to give in to the consensus of the masses. There are reports that the police forces are all set to make sure that the defiance of this ban does not go unnoticed or unpunished. No doubt this will break many peoples’ hearts.