BASANT used to be a colourful festival that marked the beginning of the spring season. It has been celebrated in the subcontinent since centuries, but was banned in Pakistan about a decade ago for some pretty valid reasons.
Spring, the season of flowers at full bloom, is usually exciting for people and they express their feelings and sentiments through singing, dancing, wearing colourful dresses and arranging sporting events. The most prominent feature of the festival used to be kite-flying which used to fill the sky with colours. Unfortunately, it all became controversial after the loss of human lives became an almost integral part of the festival at our end.
People used to fly kites throughout the year in Pakistan due to favourable weather conditions. Many people had adopted it as a hobby and were passionate about it. Various types of kites and kite-lines were easily available in the stores which were a source of employment for many people. While the festival was celebrated in many big cities, the Basant Day in Lahore was well and truly the most outstanding of them all. A number of foreigners used to visit the city to enjoy the festival, and even major hotels had started making arrangements on rooftops. But these festivities are a thing of past now; all gone. Alas!
A few people sabotaged the beautiful festival because of their short-term gains. Conventionally, the kite-line was made from cotton thread which was safe, tender and easily breakable. It was not dangerous at all. Then people replaced the cotton-made string with much cheaper and stronger alternative that was hard to break. This caused a surge in injuries and fatalities because of the kite-string. People travelling on bicycles and motorbikes were particularly at risk.
These dangerous strings were banned initially, but it did not deter their illegal sale. Soon, the practice got beyond control and the government had to ban the festival and kite-flying throughout the country to pre-empt such accidents.
Some people still violate these restrictions and, as a result, accidents do happen even today. Recently, a young man lost his life when a kite-string cut his throat while he was riding a motorbike. The video clip went viral on social media.
Due to these dangerous kite-strings, we lost many precious lives and a beautiful, colorful festival.
The government and the people have their own sets of responsibilities. As a nation, we need to change our attitude and abide by the law. Or else, we will keep losing the fun element in our lives.
Tariq Mahmood Khan
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2021