Dr Suresh Mathew
Two grave issues stare at us after the recent horrendous tragedy during the fireworks display at a temple in Kollam district in Kerala. One, the grandiose show took place in violation of several canons on conducting such pyrotechnics. In fact, the organisers cocked a snook at several law-enforcing authorities and went ahead with impunity on the basis of their muscle and money power. Second, the unlawful and criminal activity of humongous magnitude happened in the premises of a worshipping place in the name of a tradition. Here the needle of guilt is not pointed to any particular religion or worshipping place. It is only a coincidence that the scary incident happened in Puttingal Devi temple. It could have occurred in any temple or church or any other worshipping place as multiple violations of laws happen everywhere.
It is no secret that every religion has its hands stained by violation of laws in respect of fireworks display. The Supreme Court order not to hold such shows after 10 p.m. is breached with impunity. The law prescribing the sound decibel permissible for such display is thrown to winds. In many instances, such shows take place despite authorities’ refusal to grant permission as is evident from the latest gruesome tragedy.
It is to be admitted that religious festivals are not confined to pious rituals and ceremonies. Some sort of extravaganza is associated with such occasions. But what happened in Kollam verges on the most barbaric way of celebrating a festival. Over and above the sure-shot dangers involved in such high-decibel, banned pyrotechnics, it incurs wastage of crores of rupees. What goes up in smoke in a matter of hours, in the name of tradition, brings untold miseries to many in several ways.
It is high time that religious authorities and festival organisers take a close look at the colossal waste and horrendous dangers involved in such shows. It is worth recalling the circular issued by the Palai diocese in Kerala which makes out a strong case for putting an end to fireworks during festivals. Taking a conciliatory line, the circular, after enumerating the need to stop the practice, says that if any church decides to go for pyrotechnics it should be strictly in accordance with the laws prescribed by various agencies.
But there are church authorities who have not learnt a lesson from the devastation and destruction in Kollam. Some still see the ear-shattering pyrotechnic as a sine qua non for festivals, though there is nothing on record to justify it. The Palai circular can be the basis for evolving certain parameters applicable to the entire Church in India. It is heartening to learn that the Jacobite Syrian Church has decided to stop the perilous fireworks during festivals. Going a step further, it has decided to use the money for social works like building houses for people without a roof over their head. Such a benevolent step would be the ideal tribute to those who have lost their lives in the competitive, thoughtless and insensitive show. It is better to change reckless traditions than losing lives.