MUMBAI: Opposition parties Congress and NCP on Saturday urged the Maharashtra government to provide adequate protection to ensure that the upcoming 'dahi-handi' festival is celebrated peacefully.
Emerging from a meeting with office-bearers of the Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti, Congress Mumbai unit president Sanjay Nirupam said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine was attempting to fool the public by declaring the festival as an "adventure sport".
"What 'adventure sport' are they talking about? Police have started serving notices to various 'dahi-handi' associations not to include youth below 18 years or construct human pyramids more than 20 feet tall... This has created huge resentment among all the stakeholders," Nirupam told IANS after the meeting.
He added that the state government has said there would be no restrictions on the height of the human pyramids and minors aged between 12-15 must get a no-objection certificate from their parents for participating as "govindas".
"But this is contrary to the spirit of the festival and police are enforcing the 20-feet limit, debarring youngsters below 18 years and also 65 decibles sound limits, besides other things," Nirupam said.
Nationalist Congress Party leader Jitendra Awhad said deaths take place even in other sports, including cricket. "So, are these sports going to be banned? Why only 'dahi-handi' which is the favourite of the masses is being singled out for this treatment?" he asked.
NCP's Mumbai unit president Sachin Ahir accused the government of 'misleading the masses' and said they would not tolerate the axe falling on 'dahi-handi' celebrations.
"In case the government fails to accord protection to the 'dahi-handi' festival by way of appealing in a higher court against the Bombay High Court orders, laying out proper rules and regulations or promulgating an ordinance within a week, we shall agitate," Ahir warned.
Both Nirupam and Awhad accused the government of misleading the Hindu community in whose name it garners votes and abandoning them during mega festivals like 'dahi-handi', Ganeshotsav and Navratri, which will come in quick succession in September-October.
Last week, Education and Sports Minister Vinod Tawde announced that 'dahi-handi' would be treated as an "adventure sport" in Maharashtra, governed by rules and regulations.
Nirupam said "Though the announcement has been made, the ground reality is very different. The manner in which police are imposing restrictions, we apprehend serious issues during the 'dahi-handi' celebrations. If the government fails to wake up even at this late stage, we shall launch our agitation soon."
Janmashthami will be celebrated September 5, Ganeshotsav will start from September 17, followed by Navratri from October 13 and Diwali on November 11.