Shopkeepers sit idle outside their closed firecracker stores near the Jama Masjid market in New Delhi on Tuesday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Oct. 11: The BJP and the RSS appear to have launched an under-the-radar campaign on the Supreme Court ban on the sale of firecrackers during Diwali in the National Capital Region, seeking to give a communal tinge to the verdict and questioning why similar restrictions had not been imposed in connection with festivals of other religions.
BJP leaders refrained from speaking on record, wary that a section of the urban middle class was in favour of the firecracker ban, but privately felt the restrictions were against “Hindu sentiments” and that the Supreme Court should review its judgment. The leaders also felt that the ban would harm the interests of small traders, who have already procured firecrackers and will not be able to sell them.
“That firecrackers cause pollution is understandable, but why target only Hindu festivals? Other religious festivals too cause many other different forms of pollution and the Supreme Court should also ban them,” a BJP spokesperson said.
Another spokesperson felt that Diwali firecrackers kill mosquitoes, which cause dengue and chikungunya, and so people should be allowed to light them. The leader said that despite the ban, people in large numbers would buy crackers from markets outside the NCR and burst them as there is no ban on bursting crackers.
RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha said that while the concern over pollution was justified, the ban should not be selective and should be extended to all other festivals that cause various kinds of pollution.
“I appeal to the Supreme Court to broaden its verdict and include all festivals and all occasions where firecrackers or other things are used, which create pollution. Nobody can support anything that causes pollution, but the ban should not be selective,” Sinha said.
He felt that if firecrackers are a source of pollution, then factories where they are made should be closed. According to Sinha, there were discussions in society about various forms of pollution caused during (the festival of a religion) and because of loudspeakers used in (certain places of worship).
The BJP sensed that a large section of its voters was upset over the firecracker ban after Union environment minister Harshvardhan was trolled on social media for posting tweets welcoming the verdict. Traders have urged the BJP to protect their interests and take steps to get the ban lifted.
Following the Supreme Court ban on Monday, Harshvardhan had posted several tweets with the hashtag #GreenDiwali. “Welcome decision by the SC on ban of firecrackers sales in NCR. Comes as a huge support for my #GreenDilwai initiative for our environment,” one of the tweets said.
After being slammed by pro-BJP twitterati, the minister deleted the tweets yesterday. Later, he received complaints from traders in his constituency — Chandni Chowk in Delhi.
“I am very concerned about small traders after the ban on crackers a week ahead of Diwali. Ultimately, who will bear their loss?” another minister from Delhi, Vijay Goel, tweeted yesterday, flagging the case of traders, strong votaries of the BJP.
A spokesperson for the Delhi BJP, Tejinder Singh Bagga, has declared that he will distribute firecrackers among children living in slums. “I plan to buy firecrackers worth Rs 50,000 and give them to children living in slums so that they can celebrate Diwali. It will not be a violation of the Supreme Court (order) because it has only banned the sale of firecrackers, not bursting them,” Bagga said.
Prafulla Ketkar, the editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser, tweeted: “In the name of being secular, modern & progressive the Hindu ethos of this land has been targeted.
The United Hindu Front, a fringe group, today issued a statement terming the Supreme Court verdict an “assault on the Hindu religion” and said the contention of the top court that firecrackers caused pollution was “baseless”.
The front demanded
that the ban on the sale of firecrackers be lifted and threatened to protest outside the Supreme Court if it was not done.