22 August, 2014 / Shawwal 25, 1435

Katti patang

Published Feb 02, 2013 09:05pm


Lahoris are famous for their passion for kite-flying — a passion that survived strong opposition from the influential religious right for decades, but couldn’t manage to withstand ‘corporatisation and official patronage’ of the sport for very long.

More than six years after the sport was banned and Basant celebrations heralding spring prohibited in the wake of deaths in kite-flying related accidents, the people still try and cling every year to the slightest and the weakest signal from the city administration for the revival of the festival that once was part of their growing-up experience in the city.

“What the orthodox religious lobbies could not achieve by decreeing Basant festivities as an un-Islamic and Hindu ritual came into being because the government didn’t have what it takes to protect the citizens’ right to enjoy their life the way they want to,” says Ihsanul Haq, a businessperson from Mozang.

“Instead of implementing the laws regulating the kite business to minimise the risk to human life, the inept bureaucracy and the police hierarchy have convinced the politicians to outlaw the sport. This kind of thinking dictates most actions of our rulers who would ban pillion riding and switch off our cellphones in the wake of a terrorist attack in the city or even in anticipation of it. Easy solutions to complex issues cannot solve our problems,” he argues.

Deaths caused by celebratory gunshots, falls from the rooftops, electrocution or road accidents related to Basant celebrations had always been an ‘accepted’ part of the game. But the images of motorcyclists and children with their throats cut by razor-sharp twine lined with abrasive chemicals and excessive crushed glass or killed by gunshots shown by television channels in the early 2000s triggered widespread public outcry against the ‘killer’ sport. It also provided fresh ammunition to the religious groups for their campaign against the ‘pagan’ festival. Those feeling angry over repeated power breakdowns due to kite-flying too joined the chorus.

The first ban on kite-flying, though for a period of three months only, was slapped by the then city Nazim Mian Amer Mahmood, a former activist of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) who enjoyed close links with the generals. As the entry of multinationals, big banks, generals, bureaucrats, politicians, media groups and film and sports celebrities, as well as organisation of Basant celebrations at official level created a cut-throat competition, the use of banned materials in the preparation of lethal string used to bring down the rival’s kites increased.

As the number of deaths rose, the Supreme Court banned kite-flying/Basant festivities until a legal framework was put in place to regulate the business as well as the game itself. The government made extensive regulations, banned the use of chemical and metal reinforced string and proposed stringent punishments for the violators to get the Court’s ban lifted for 15 days for the Jashan-i-Baharaan in 2006. But the relief period was cut short by more deaths as law enforcers found it impossible to chase the violators and the sport and the business —manufacturing and sale of all kinds of materials used for making kites and string — was banned for an indefinite period.

Ever since, many have approached the courts for removal of the ban for 15 days each year as provided in the Punjab Kite Flying Prohibition Ordinance, pleading that the revival of kite flying business was crucial to save thousands of families associated with the trade. “It is surprising that the petitioners have never pointed out the significance of Basant and this centuries-old tradition for the cultural life of the city,” says Mubashir Bashir, a financial expert by profession. “What matters most to me is not jobs — although they remain a major concern, but the revival of the tradition that cuts across religious, economic, social and other divides.”

Ihsan points out that the way Basant is celebrated in Lahore is unique. “The city’s weather — cool breeze blowing under a clear, blue sky — in February, just when winter is departing, and the architectural layout of the Walled City and its residents’ unmatched passion for kites provide a perfect setting for this sport. It is the culture of the old city that has helped the people defy the decrees by religious groups against Basant. Therefore, it is no surprise that no other city in the entire subcontinent has ever attracted kite lovers from around the world as Lahore has. Even Basant festivals organised in Indian cities like Jaipur have failed to catch the attention of the world.”

As the time for traditional Basant celebrations is approaching with the beginning of February, Lahoris are once again asking: Will their sky ever be dotted with colourful kites and their rooftops resonate with the shouts of ‘bo kata’? More importantly, will their children be allowed to experience what they had in their childhood?

There are no easy answers to these questions because no-one would want loss of another innocent life for the sake of pleasure. Still the old days can be revived provided everybody — the administration, the police, the people, etc — agree to play the game according to the rules.

After all, those trapped by the sharp twine could be anybody’s friend or family.

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Comments (48) (Closed)

Feb 04, 2013 12:20am
It's really painful to see so many suggesting here that let the throats be slit through but don't stop us from enjoying the kite flying ...are we actually turning into a heartless, barbaric society who can't distinguish right from wrong...no wonder we're into so much problems...if you want to fly kite, go to parks and fly beautifully crafted kites with normal thread...as is done all over the world.
Feb 03, 2013 03:34pm
What a comment bhai....really I feed sad for current sorry state of affairs in Pakistan.. (From a very ordinary citizen of India)
Feb 04, 2013 07:38pm
taking about patang u all should watch movie gattu , for all kite lovers
Md Imran
Feb 04, 2013 03:27pm
It is a hindu festival, and i fail to see why an Islamic nation should celebrate it at the cost of its citizens ?
Mr Singh
Feb 04, 2013 08:28pm
bhai log agar kite flying Arabian sport hota to ap logon ke mullah log aur scholars . kite flying ke 10 -15 scientific benefits bta dete. aur uski references dete ke watch this video on YouTube. even Christian doctors and scholars are admitting scientific benefits of kite flying. aur bolte ke ek Christian kite flying karke itna impress hua ke usne apna religion change kar liya. aur kuch scholars bolte ke westren logon ne hamari kite flying ko dekhkar he airplane banana sikha. agar ham kite na bnate to air crafts n rockets na hote. thanks God , kite flying is not an Arabian sport
Raw Agent
Feb 04, 2013 10:16am
Who says driving is necessary...!! People in the earlier generations never used to drive..!!
No hope.
Feb 03, 2013 11:16pm
Its not the Pakistanis Paras,its a few political and religious giants who happen to run our lives.Us Pakistani and Indians live side by side all over the world,heck we all play cricket together,we fly kites together right here in Texas USA.e watched the cricket series from India,believe me,we were all rooting for our teams,screaming yelling,but having fun with respect for eachother.My point is,please don't think that the Pakistanis simply hate the festival because its a hindu thing,no sir,haven't you read,Even Indians couldn't beat the celebration in Lahore lol.Peace brother.
No hope.
Feb 03, 2013 11:09pm
You may be right but it all starts with the people of Pakistan,you want honest leaders,vote for them and throw out the bad guys.We are the cause of corruption,we gave birth to it,we elected these thugs,look no further then yourself in the mirror.Answer to every question is us,the public,the people of Pakistan.How long are we going to continue to blame others while we hold the keys in our hands to unlock this crap and elect someone who will work for us,the ones who vote him in.Elections aren't that far away,make it count.Even though I sit thousands of miles away,I know I will make mine count.And one day I will again plan my trip home around the basant in my old neighborhood in GAWAL MANDI......bo katta,manhay da ser pata.
Raw Agent
Feb 04, 2013 09:47am
lol..!! What I meant was ppl in Delhi don't fly kites on Basant. But ppl from Punjab do. Being into private sector it is hard to get leave for some festival which is local. Still from last 7 years I have always manage to take leave and join the fun at Pathankot :D
aamir riaz
Feb 03, 2013 09:43am
its good that Dawn pointed out this but the writer should also write a chronology of so-called free media bad reporting in this regard. banning is no solution at all yet by engaging kite flying stake holders one can move forward to resolve it. killing is karachi is every day affair, much more percentage than basant than court should ban living in karachi?
Feb 03, 2013 11:46am
Shame on those who have deprived us from celebrating Basant. Yes by all means regulate and have harsh punishments or those who use banned killer strings but please dont deprive the majority of some much needed enjoyment as we barely have any festivals of this scale to celebrate.
Feb 04, 2013 10:28am
Feb 03, 2013 10:27pm
Life is too short.Enjoy it.
Pankaj Patel(USA)
Feb 03, 2013 09:51pm
I am Originally from Surat in India and I have enjoyed kite flying in Surat in fifties.I have never heard any on got killed due to kite thread those days and that was the festival we enjoyed most.We celebrate it on Makkar Sankranti day ie January 14th.Now a days it is celebrated on a grand state all over Gujarat.Kite festival of Ahmedabad drew participants from about 50 countries when I was in Ahmedabad in 2011.This is celebrated on a grand scale and kite thread is regulated.Whole city takes part and every one is on the roof on that day.Most important and under appreciated part is most kite and thread makers are Muslims and both communities participates in this festival till today nobody has called it un Islamic.
Feb 03, 2013 09:28pm
Realy missed the event, good old days, everything is just going down hill in Pak...
Feb 03, 2013 09:05pm
Rashid, this the best comment on the kite flying tradition/festival. Thanksa. Will these fundamentalists leave the people of Lahore to enjoy the festival which Lahories and other have been enjying for centuries?
Raw Agent
Feb 03, 2013 10:46am
I am originally from Pathankot Punjab - India and these days live in Delhi wherein I work for Nokia India. Honestly one festival which I have never missed since I moved to Delhi is Basant, for me which is only meant for flying kites. Since Punjab on both sides have quite a similar culture, I can bet those who grown up living this kind of rich culture will feel surely frustrated and miss the old times.
Peace Only
Feb 03, 2013 05:04pm
Someone has compared car driving with kite flying below in comments... What a senseless example of car driving and comparing it with kite flying!!! Is car driving actually meant for pleasure only? Can we live without car driving as a society? Are we not living without kite flying? Kite flying was killing innocent people and mainly kids.... Hell with this kind of pleasure.... I am glad it is banned....
Feb 03, 2013 10:02am
Its too bad to ban an event like basant. People already have very little to celebrate in Pakistan. Instead of depriving them of some little joy, the government should find some other ways to solve the problem of "killer dore".
Raw Agent
Feb 03, 2013 12:56pm
Since Car accidents do happens so ppl should stop driving the Cars? It is about regulating them not stopping it
Imran Azim Butt
Feb 03, 2013 12:00pm
It hurts to pass every Basant season without celebrating it in Lahore but this hurt is nothing compared to the deaths one had to see and hear about on every Basant. Lahoris proved themselves irresponsible every year and the number of deaths escalated instead of reducing. They deserved this predicament. They will just not learn and not respect the rules. How can you enjoy Basant when there are innocent people dying around you. This is like terrorism when throats of little children are slit by the wires used and people dying due to the relentless firing. We are better off without celebrating basant , there are lesser innocent people buried every year and shame on the lot who never did or never will respect the laws and have taken away the hundreds of years old tradition from us.
Feb 03, 2013 12:08pm
The problem lies with you people.Why can't you fly kites for the shear joy of it instead of coating your strings with crushed glass and such?Parents should stop this practice by their children. Why don't they? To blame the authorities for banning this due to string deaths is not correct.This cutting strings "war attitude" can be replaced by whose kite flies the highest.Or who has the better looking kite and so on and so forth.Compromise Pakistan compromise.
Feb 03, 2013 12:18pm
What is Pakistan now was the religious and cultural centre of ancient Indian civilization - from Indus civilization to Sanskrit language to Vedas. When your neighbours can be proud of their Persian culture & heritage and celebrate pre-Islamic festivals like Navroze why cant Pakistanis ?
Capt C M Khan
Feb 03, 2013 01:20pm
Answer to every question is CORRUPTION....we Pakistanis love to have short cuts and show-off be it a harmless sport like KITE-FLYING....we have to build up a CULTURE OF HONESTY first which seems impossible now that 90% are corrupt .....so Ban the comes.....However I agree 15 days a year in Lahore it must be lifted and Motorcycle riders should wear Neck collars in addition to their helmets during that period. It will create more jobs for Neck Collar makers ....so easy
Bakhtawer Bilal
Feb 03, 2013 11:34am
There have been so many car accidents, in which people die. Instead of banning cars, traffic rules, car's integrity and driver's capability are more thoroughly checked. Oh but who has the time to implement the law.
Feb 03, 2013 11:08am
Kite flying is as big in India as in Pakistan and is still being done in india every year. But we do not have so many deaths during the kite flying days, am wondering why so many people die in pakistan during kite flying days?
umesh bhagwat
Feb 03, 2013 11:07am
It is unfortunate that kite flying is banned in Pakistan. It has been a traditional sport since The Mughal times and should be encouraged!
Feb 03, 2013 07:37pm
Ha..ha...Poor people has reached to that level?..Just a kyte flying?..You see religion on those too..my god!!...What kind of religious people are in Pakistan?..
Feb 03, 2013 07:04pm
Pakistan has strangled the great culture of Punjab to promote a desert tyranny!
Feb 03, 2013 07:01pm
I think State should provide protection to the people's lives, at all costs, but they should not ban the Kite Flying. This is a traditional support and laws should be designed to protect the traditions, and protect the lives of people, both at the same time, by a balancing act, if the State wants to do the balancing act, that will be good.
Rashid Sultan
Feb 03, 2013 01:43pm
Cannot fathom what the fuss is all about? Kite flying is traditional. It is our cultural heritage heralding the end of winter and arrival of warm weather. Why bring religion into it? It is ridiculous to consider it un islamic just because our arab masters don't fly kites. The desert of the arab peninsula is unsuited for this pastime. It is like saying speaking Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, etc is un islamic because the arabs don't speak it. Or wearing western clothes that most of our politicians and army wallahs do is un islamic. Grow up and stop being a bigoted government. More people die in sectarian and regional strife let alone suicide bomings and other terrorist related violence that decimates lives.
Feb 03, 2013 08:33pm
You are from Punjab and now living in Delhi where you still fly kites during Basant but I couldn't stop wondering what on earth you working in Nokia has to do with this :) Does that give more credibility to your comment :P
Feb 03, 2013 08:29pm
Driving is a necessity, kite-flying is not...
Feb 03, 2013 08:30pm
Keep the mullah in the masjid and out of kite flying!
Your Indian Friend
Feb 03, 2013 08:03pm
Appreciate your thoughts and comment Rashid! It's irony that they like cricket (which came from a different continent) and other western games but they don't link kite flying which is our own regional cultural heritage.
Feb 03, 2013 02:00pm
Aaj basant manaalay, suhaagan, Aaj basant manaalay Anjan manjan kar piya mori, lambay neher lagaalay Tu kya sovay neend ki maasi, So jaagay teray bhaag, suhaagun, Aaj basant manaalay. Oonchi naar kay oonchay chitvan, Ayso diyo hai banaaye Shah Amir tuhay dekhan ko, nainon say naina milaaye, Suhaagun, aaj basant manaalay.
Feb 03, 2013 02:35pm
now how will you say " go, fly a kite".
Feb 04, 2013 02:27am
cars are a necessity and kites are what?? Not a good example buddy. All you people saying crap about the ban dont know what the parents and the loved ones of those who have suffered from this, had to go through. pakistanis are illiterate and not responsible at all and they will never comply with rules. per say if the ban was lifted and even if there were clear guidelines to not use the banned twines with crushed glass and chemical, there will still be people who would use them. and Pakistan has much bigger problems then trying to stop people from selling that deadly stuff or tryng to stop people from using it. i used to fly kites myself but if this is what it leads to then id never touch one again. there are other ways to enjoy where i wouldnt be responsible fro someones death. still,
Feb 04, 2013 02:00am
YOU are welcome to adopt the sport along with TAJ MAHAL -;)
Feb 04, 2013 01:59am
YOU don't have so many deaths in India, that is an example of 'INDIA SHINNING', but in Pakistan we are of the view, that even one irresponsible death is too many. Although Talibans would disagree, but we are willing to export the Taliban, when and where required.
Feb 03, 2013 05:52pm
Why don't they stop people from driving motor cycles without helmets, cars without seat belts and the reckless bus drivers that probably kill more people over a given year compared to kite flying. We demand lifting of ban on kite flying under stringent rules and exemplary punishment for offenders of rules for kite flying.
Feb 03, 2013 05:39pm
It appears from your comment that you have never indulged in kite flying sport. Not have a cutting match in kite flying is like playing cricket without scoring runs. You have no idea what this sport is all about, you have to experience it to believe what fun it is to fly a kite and have a cutting match with another one in the open skies....
Feb 03, 2013 05:43pm
Did not know you Pakistanis also know what is kite flying... now I will extend my kite from Gujarat to Pakistan to cut all of your kites.. hahaha
Feb 03, 2013 05:32pm
Very well said and fully support your argument. It's unfortunate that we have killed a sport that was the life of Lahore during this time of the year and one of my favorite past time of my growing up years in Lahore. Unfortunately, we as a nation continue to destroy all our traditions and cultural activities that we were once famous for......
Feb 04, 2013 01:43am
Nobody says it is un Islamic because Arabs (your masters, not mine) did not fly kite. It is deemed un Islamic because, people have been documented to die because of this activity. Killing of an innocent is deemed to be a big crime by the Muslims like me, be it the Taliban or the kite lovers. Even mutilating your own body is not allowed in Islam (little cuts - cheera). You would argue, that you indulge in safe practice. But some of us don't, which may result in a loss of life. Even a single casualty because of this avoidable practice is one too many. And the blame in the after world would be on you, for preaching a bad practice. Are you ready for that?
s malik
Feb 03, 2013 05:22pm
Lahore without a Basant is like spring without flowers; river without water, a garden without a Koyal,,,,, pls bring it back.
Feb 03, 2013 03:24pm
Since the administration is incompetent, therefore, instead of enforcing the law and making sure that wires are not sold and those who sell them are caught and punished, the only solution it could come up with was to ban the sports. For a common man in Pakistan, there aren't very many means of entertainment and now they is even one less. People used to travel from places like Karachi to Lahore to celebrate it, such was the attraction of this event.
Feb 03, 2013 03:08pm
Driving is a necessity and are a privileged to earn an income for a family. We cannot argue that to back Kite hobbyist. Its a pleasure fun and keep it in the sport category