District Kite Flying Association Lahore (DKFAL) submitted an application at the DCO’s office on Monday for permission to celebrate Basant on March 7 and 8, this year.
DKFAL secretary general Sheikh Saleem says he hopes the DCO will respond positively to the request within a week. “The association has already set standards regarding the manufacture of twine for kites. We celebrated Basant in 2009 under the agreement.”
However, DCO Captain (retd) Muhammad Usman Younis tells The Express Tribune that holding a Basant festival would not be possible this year. “The DKFAL submits an application every year. This does not change the reasons why Basant was banned in the first place.”
The DCO says it is not possible to regulate the types of twine manufactured and sold in the market or to make sure that people stop flying kites after the festival.
“Who will accept responsibility for deaths that take place because of this sport?” He says it is not only the chemical-treated twine or metal wires used to fly kites that are the problem. “Children fall off rooftops because of it.”
The DCO could not provide consolidated figures for the number of deaths that have occurred during earlier Basant celebrations, but maintained that it would be hard to allow Basant celebrations in Lahore this year.
Walled City of Lahore Authority Director General Kamran Lashari says there are several problems with the festival, “but it’s not like they can’t be dealt with,” he says. There are ways to identify and shut down units manufacturing hazardous twine. “We have a large police force and administration. Surely they can implement regulations on manufacturing twine,” he says.
However, Lashari says he does not believe that Basant will return to Lahore soon. “The matter has gone beyond the question of what twine people should use. The media and maulvis have complicated the issue and turned it political.”
Several kite enthusiasts have expressed dismay at the government’s decision to scrap Basant. They say that the government has dealt a serious blow to cultural activity, Lahore once claimed to be the hub of.
Syed Zulfiqar Hussain, a DKFAL member who used to organise Basant events, says the last time Basant was celebrated five million people participated in it.
He too agrees with Lashari that the issue has become a political one. “It is no longer about flying kites anymore.” Last year, the government announced Basant celebrations at Changa Manga but cancelled those at the last minute citing security concerns.
He says the DKFAL has not reached an agreement this year with the government with regard to the type of twine or size of kites to be used for Basant celebrations. These are the two problems cited most often as the cause of deaths.
“This government seems to have taken the issue to heart,” says Saleem.
However, the government will celebrate the advent of spring like it does each year.
“We have planned a Jashan-i-Baharan for March,” Younis tells The Express Tribune.
For kite lovers, though, celebration of spring is incomplete without kites. “No other activity can take the place of Basant,” says Lashari. “Basant has 200 years history in Lahore. No replacement festival can compete with it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2015.
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