A week after the Supreme Court upheld the Bombay High Court’s decision to bar minors from participating in the Dahi Handi pyramids, Govinda groups or pathaks are still confused if underage Govindas could accompany them. Only one day before the festival, it was also unclear if all organisers and mandals had decided to limit the height of the pyramids to 20 feet.
While stating that they wish to abide by the rules, the Govinda groups said compromising with the practised height of a pyramid would be difficult.
The confusion was worsened after one of the groups, Jai Jawan Govinda Pathak, filed a fresh petition in the court on Monday, challenging the SC order. In a meeting of the representatives of major govinda groups on Tuesday, they said they are awaiting a positive decision from the SC.
“We believe a positive decision keeping in mind our demands will be taken after Wednesday’s hearing. Apart from that, we have asked pathaks to follow all safety measures,” said Bala Padlekar, president of the Dahi Handi Utsav Samanvay Samiti.
“Our demands were not considered when the court’s decision came out. We are confident that no govinda ever died falling from the pyramid. Also, in no way can a fixed height of 20 feet be achieved even if you make only four levels of the pyramid, as variations exist,” another member of the Samiti said.
The pathaks want children above 12 years of age to be allowed in the pyramids. “We want the court to allow us to continue with the height that we have practised. It is sad that children below 14 and 16 years of age can represent the country for sports outside, but not play this game,” said Aarti Bhari, member,Swastik Dahi Mandal, Goregaon.
Fearing court orders, most underage Govindas had already given up practising, pathaks said.
“As per tradition, we began practice over three weeks ago, after Guru Poornima. The court order has left us confused between the stand the organisers are planning to take and the rules set by the court. Some organisers are planning to back out from the celebrations. In that case, our efforts will be wasted,” said Padlekar.
“The court restriction will rob Mumbai’s Govindas of their identity,” said Kamlesh Bhikaji Bhoir, member of Young Umerkhadi Govinda Pathak.
Pathaks have claimed that the Govindas in their group are above 12 years. “We will participate with our regular Govinda team as planned, because now we don’t have enough time to train new Govindas,” said a member of a pathak in Mumbai.
The police, meanwhile, have said they will keep a close watch on violation of rules by the Pathaks and Mandals. “We have already informed the mandals in writing to follow the directions of the Supreme Court and will take necessary action if any mandal violates the orders,” said a senior police officer. The officer said the police would video-record proceedings at venues across the city. “This will enable us to have evidence against those who break the law,” said a senior police inspector.
There are around 2,000 Dahi Handi mandals in the city, out of which 900 are registered with the Samanvaya Samiti.