Politicians who conduct Dahi Handi programmes have criticised the Bombay High Court’s verdict banning minors from participating in the human pyramid formation during the Dahi Handi festival.
They said although they would abide by the order, a review petition would be filed against the order.
The coordination committee of Govinda mandals in Mumbai has also decided to approach the Supreme Court against the HC verdict.
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Terming the court’s decision as “arbitrary”, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Maharashtra’s Medical Education Minister Jitendra Awhad claimed that the voices of 10 lakh Govindas (young men who participate in breaking the Dahi Handi) were not even heard in the matter.
Awhad’s Sangharsh Dahi Handi in Thane holds one of the grandest Gokulashtami celebrations. “This is a tragic day in my life. I have been associated with this festival for 45 years. It is my favourite festival since it depicts the culture and spirit of Mumbai. The court could have instead formed a committee to understand rules and put in place additional security features and rules,” he said.
Alleging that the “festival played and enjoyed by the poor and the middle class” had been killed by the elite who had maligned it, Awhad said he was contemplating moving the celebrations out to Goa.
Awhad also slammed Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik’s decision to discontinue the mega Dahi Handi celebrations that his outfit, the Sanskruti Yuva Pratisthan, organises in Thane.
While Sarnaik has said he took the decision in the wake of deaths of two young Govindas during practice for the festival, Awhad said the party which prided itself as a champion of Hindutva was running away from a fight when a popular Hindu festival had come under threat.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) MLA Bala Nandgaonkar, who is also head of the Govinda mandal at Mazgaon, said his mandal too would stop celebrations this year. “We will not celebrate the festival if the courts keep dictating how we are supposed to celebrate.”
Nandgaonkar, who is also a member of the Dahi Handi Utsav Samanvay Samiti, an umbrella body for all the Dahi Handi mandals, said,
“We have decided to approach the apex court in a few days for a re-look into the matter. For now, we have to abide by the court order as we have no other option.”
Minister of State for Housing Sachin Ahir said, “We are law-abiding citizens who will go by the court’s orders. We will go through the verdict in a few days, but if the onus of safety is put on the organisers alone, we have to re-think on the practicality of organising the festival on such a large scale.”
Ahir said he would take up the matter in the cabinet in a few days.