Tag Archives: Ban

Basant: Lahore’s lost spring

Raza Rumi

Cross posted from my website

Lahore, a centre for the arts and learning in the early 20th century, has been the custodian of a plural, vibrant culture for decades. Its walled city, unlike several other old settlements, has continued to survive despite the expansion of the city. So have its peculiar features: its dialects, cuisine, community linkages and, of course, rich festivals such as Basant. As the capital of Punjab, Lahore used to celebrate Basant — the arrival of spring — in a colourful manner.

Since the medieval times, Basant was acknowledged and celebrated by the Chishti saints. Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi turned it into an act of devotion, and Amir Khusrau’s songs captured the multi-layered evolution of this festival.

Punjabi poets such as Shah Hussain gave a Sufi flavour to it. Hussain, in one of his kaafis, says: “The Beloved holds the string in his hand, and I am His kite.” The festival offered a meaning to all and sundry: from playful kids to lovers and Sufis; from profit-seekers who developed livelihoods around the festival to the community as a whole.

Basant was celebrated by all communities prior to Partition: Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs treated it as a Lahori festival with an identity linked to the city. In this milieu, Allama Iqbal was known to be an avid kite flier. But the post-1947 rise of clerics meant that inclusive cultural practices were to be treated with suspicion. For many decades, the Pakistani mullahs have ranted against Basant as an “unIslamic” festival and one that endangered public morality.

Unfazed by these fatwas, Lahoris continued with the festival. It even received state patronage on various occasions. A citizen of Lahore, Mian Yousaf Salahuddin (the grandson of Iqbal), turned his old Lahore haveli into a cultural hub and, over time, Basant celebrations became an international attraction. By the 1990s, proactive civil servants turned Basant into a great regional festival. Lahore’s then deputy commissioner, Kamran Lashari, provided full backing to the holding of this event in the 1990s. That was perhaps the time when Basant also became most controversial due to its scale and the increased hazards of unregulated kite-flying in which metallic or chemical-coated string was used.

The use of this string instead of the traditional dor caused many deaths each year and the local government was unable to enforce regulations on its usage. The metallic wire would get entangled in electricity cables in the old city, leading to electrocution. The courts intervened and asked the Punjab government to ban the festival in 2007.

Ironically, the banning of Basant did not take place in the name of religion but through a public interest litigation. However, the ideological opponents of Basant have been happy with the outcome and have created an uproar each time someone raised the question of reviving Basant after putting safety measures in place. But Lahore is a poorer place now. It is devoid of this public celebration, especially for thousands of impoverished workers in the old city and neighbouring towns where Basant was celebrated with great fervour.

Read the full post here

The images are Mahboob Ali’s works (an eminent artist from Lahore also known for his woodcuts)

Sad news: Kite-flying to stay banned

Raza Rumi

I know that Lahore Nama has been visited in the recent days by hundreds and thousands of Basant enthusiasts. This is unfortunate that an age-old fetival is being banned and denied to people only because the government cannot regulate malpractices by a few business people and the bankrupt, failed WAPDA.

Hope that this festival will come back to Lahore. We strongly protest against this policy decision. Pakistan cannot be made a afe haven for roaming terrorists and suicide bombers while the peaceful citizens are denied the opportunity to celebrate a festival that is so deeply a part of our culture.

Here is the Daily Times story on this:

* District administration warns violators of stern action
* DCO says ‘Governor’s House’ no exception to kite-flying ban
* Police crack down on kite makers

Daily Times Monitor/Staff Report

LAHORE: The district administration has decided to maintain the ban on kite-flying in the provincial capital as per the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC), warning that those violating the law would be dealt with sternly, a private TV channel reported on Friday.

According to the channel, a meeting presided over by Lahore District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sajjad Bhutta, decided that those found violating the court orders would be dealt with strictly under the law.

The DCO said the LHC had declared that permission to celebrate Basant could be given if a Continue reading

Kinnaird College Lahore imposes ban on jeans after threats

Raza Rumi

Lahore’s premier institution for women’s higher education is also under threat. What a shame that a college that has always been a symbol of modernity, enlightenment and culture is now facing the perils of growing extremism in the city. How sad – but we need to resist this. It is understandable that the college authorities want to safeguard the security of students  but the civil society and the secular parties must not accept this nonsense. The state has to do what it is mandated under the Constitution. The news report below sums it all:

The Kinnaird College (KC) administration has banned the students from wearing jeans or other tight dresses in the wake of possible terrorist threats. The college has imposed a strict dress code that only allows students to wear Eastern dresses such as shalwar qameez or loose trousers. Dupatas have been made mandatory. Continue reading

Basant remains a controversy

Two reports that say a lot on the current controversy on basant.

Taseer says he’ll celebrate Basant
Monday, February 16, 2009
The NEWS

PUNJAB Governor Salman Taseer has said that we still have not come to the conclusion that what kind of Pakistan we want, adding that we can materialise the dreams of our forefathers only if we follow thoughts and teachings of teachers like MD Taseer.

He was talking to journalists after the launching ceremony of two books of by his father Dr MD Taseer, the renowned educationist and the frontline figure of the progressive writers’ movement at the Governor’s House on Sunday. Continue reading

Ban on Basant: 500,000 families without bread and butter

By Nauman Tasleem (Daily Times)

LAHORE: Around 500,000 families, directly related to the kite flying business, have lost their sources of livelihood because of the ban on Basant, the stakeholders of the kite flying industry told Daily Times on Friday.

The ban is costing them Rs 200 million annually, and at the same time damaging other businesses that are indirectly related to the festival. They said that the people related to the industry, including kite makers, twine (dor) makers, wholesalers and retailers, had lost their means of earning a living.

The cost of the paper used in kite making is estimated at around Rs 90 million and the cost of the twine used for flying kites is estimated at around Rs 40 million. Continue reading