Only sound and fury

Those who object to court ban on bursting crackers make a poor case

Written by Badri Raina | Updated: October 13, 2017 12:39 am
firecrackers, crackers, cracker ban, firecrackers, firecrackers ban, crackers ban, Supreme Court, crackers ban Supreme Court, indian express columns (Source: @AkashvaniAIR/File photo)

The cracker-ban controversy is not so ephemeral as it may seem, nor as innocent as some genial proponents would have us believe. To the extent that it touches upon important concerns pertaining to individual, social, religious, and constitutional domains, the debate seems worthwhile.

It has been contended by notable official voices that the Supreme Court ought not to have pronounced on a matter that belongs exclusively to the executive. How valid is this objection? It is of course a given that the separation of powers is a founding principle of India’s constitutional regime. What is forgotten, however, is the fact that within that regime, perhaps the most onerous and undeniable obligation of the SC is to protect the Constitution where executive practice is legitimately held to cross the fundamental rights of citizens. And is there a right more fundamental than the right to life itself? Clearly, those that contest the decision of the SC must demonstrate with proof that the emission of toxic smoke from millions of crackers, all within a short span of time, are not injurious to the health of citizens, especially children, the aged, the infirm. Or that one may shop as easily or with comparative probability for a new lung as one might for an alternate source of work.

A second objection, rather a typically nefarious one, that has been made is that the SC seems always to be bothered only by Hindu customs and practices. Consider the cruel irony that this objection is being made chiefly by the very falange of opinion makers who till the other day were tirelessly applauding the Court for having held instant triple talaq violative of the human and gender rights of Muslim women. Such short memory must truly seem astounding were it not mischievously political. Consider also the fact that the SC has issued an injunction to the state to gradually phase out the subsidy given to Haj pilgrims. To date we have no knowledge of any such injunction bearing on any Hindu festival. But then, of course, Hindu customs and festivals are now to be understood as constituting “culture” whereas all others are alien “religious” practices, out of sync with India’s ontological personality.

Related to the above is an observation made by a popular writer — whose work I am wretchedly wholly unacquainted with — that if crackers are to be banned then so must animal sacrifice on Eid and also the practice of installing Christmas trees. Alas I may be excused for not being able for now to see the relevance of the analogies, but, since the proponent is a popular writer, the government might consider setting up a commission to examine the scientific merit of the argument made by him. Where is the harm in that?

In the forefront of the agitation against the busting of crackers have been children. Yet, many parents have suggested that for children’s sake the practice ought to be permitted. Clearly, the safety of their own children here seems to have taken a backseat, even as their outcry — a wholly justified one — against school administrations for playing ducks and drakes with children’s safety has in recent days been a central focus of public concern with saturation exposure in the media. This view of the prerogatives of parental authority must seem somewhat contradictory. The argument being that parents have the right to put their children’s health in harm’s way whereas institutions must be hauled up if they falter in the least.

A further argument that has been made is that if crackers are to be banned so must be smoking. Precisely. Smoking in public places is banned in order not to afflict others who do not smoke with passive inhalation. Nor do smokers gather in jamborees on streets, parks, house-fronts and other public places on any given day, sacred or not, to emit billions of gallons of toxic nicotine. Most nowadays slink into unseen corners for an elusive puff or two.

In recent months many celebrities have voiced grave objection to the azan as being a source of noise pollution. One might wonder whether a whole year’s volume of azan may hold a candle to the noise pollution wrought by the bursting of crackers for just a week or 10 days all across the Gangetic belt. Indeed, for this writer, this remains as great a cause of perturbation as the toxic fumes emitted by the bursting of crackers. Yet, those that object to the azan, a rather mellifluous call to prayer that does not exceed more than a minute five times a day, seem entirely unbothered by the ruckus of cracker blasts that have not infrequently led to death by shock of people with cardiac ailments.

Altogether, we contend that the proponents of cracker bursting freedom have a bad case on all fronts. Many of these proponents are avid votaries of clean-up India. We wonder why it is necessary to pollute before we clean up.

The writer taught at Delhi University

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  1. J
    Oct 15, 2017 at 6:55 am
    As a parent of children struggling with Asthma, I relate to the ban and can't see the link with a religion. As a parent, I would raise my voice if a few people choose to smoke at my doorstep since it affects my kids. Period.
    1. V
      Oct 14, 2017 at 1:26 am
      I pity the students being taught by such a person. Poor logic, poor comparison, poor inference. And surprisingly just because he thinks azaan mellifluous, he can hear it in his room and he need not bother his neighbours.
      1. Employ Ment
        Oct 13, 2017 at 7:51 pm
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        1. M
          manu gameuri
          Oct 13, 2017 at 5:53 pm
          The argument has been well made out by the author , albeit in order to make it entertaining ,he will attract the charges of being a leftist jihadi. The simple point I think is India and Indians must grow up .Many of the things that we practiced in the past are not appropriate for the present times .As a kid I used to enjoy the loudspeakers for navratri , the manjha ( thread with glass shreds ) and of course bursting the noisy crackers , the more noise they made the merrier I was . But today with the burgeoning population , the pollution and in general lack of solitude in big cities , reasonable restrictions are required on all practices that are not essential .If it were possible limits to the no or timings for bursting of crackers would have been more appropriate , but I don't think that is possible . so a full fledged ban is what is possible , so be it .As far is Chetan Bhagat is considered , I used to think of IITians as intelligent beings , I am not so sure now .
          1. P
            Oct 13, 2017 at 3:03 pm
            People are supreme ,they are justified to defy the SC orders, which are discriminatory and blasphemous in a way.One fail to understand how can bursting of crackers for two days will worsen the the environment which already remains highly polluted all the year. Secondly,how can SC take an Executive decision ,it tantamount to Cons utional trespassing into Executive domain. The President in fact should declare it null and void.
            1. P
              proud dalit
              Oct 13, 2017 at 7:28 pm
              You will be booked for contempt of court, beware. If the court order is against minorities, you rejoice, and now complaining. You are anti national.
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