MUMBAI/THANE: In the run-up to next year’s civic election, the spectator sport of Dahi Dandi acquired high political stakes ahead of Tuesday’s festival of Gokulashtami. The state government led by the Shiv Sena issued guidelines prohibiting the mass celebration of Dahi Handi amid pandemic season even as the MNS and BJP threatened to defy orders and proceed with the human pyramid.
The state instructed police, BMC and health officials to enforce the ban. It stipulated that human pyramids should not be formed because such human contact could lead to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Instead, people should hold blood donation and health camps and observe the festival privately.
“The second wave of the pandemic may have receded but the threat remains. Health experts have expressed concern about a third wave. The Centre has also advised caution. In view of this, Dahi handi should be celebrated in a simple manner. Instead of gathering in public, people should watch the festival (worship) online or on cable networks,” the guidelines said.
High drama prevailed in Thane as the city police arrested 18 MNS activists including district president Avinash Jadhav for setting up a pandal and violating the state’s Dahi Handi directives. The police dismantled the stage erected by party functionaries who then sat on a dharna at the Bhagwati ground site. A case was registered after which the partymen were released on bail.
In Pics: Thane Police detains MNS leader Avinash Jadhav over Dahi Handi celebrations
<p>The Thane police on Monday detained Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Avinash Jadhav and other party workers in the city — Anil Shinde (TOI)</p>
Yet the defiance persisted. Avinash Jadhav said, “Come what may, we will go ahead with Dahi Handi as planned, the government should not use the shield of the police. We were told to dismantle the stage. Without the stage also, we will go ahead with the festival.”
Certain govinda pathaks from Mumbai had been counting on the MNS event to express dissatisfaction with the state ban. But police action dampened their defiance. “We were planning to travel to Thane and form a small pyramid, just to show our dissent. But now we are not sure,” said a member of the high profile Jai Jawan Mandal in Jogeshwari.
The govindas are torn by rival political loyalties. The prize-winning mandal of Tadwadi, Mazgaon, has as its coach Arun Patil who is working president of the Dahi Handi Samanvay Samiti.
Patil said, “We will abide by the government rule. Our boys will simply crack a coconut in the local temple and may break a symbolic handi from ground level. No pyramids will be formed. In fact, govinda pathaks from Borivali, Vasai and Virar have been calling me to ask if they should make plans to head out. I advised them all to avoid violating the law. Don’t force the authorities to foist legal cases on you, I said.”
On a parallel note, Mumbai Police issued notice to BJP leader Ram Kadam who had tweeted that he would bring a Dahi Handi to Ghatkopar police station on Tuesday morning along with govinda groups. Similar notices were despatched to people who posted on social media about celebrating with human pyramids.
उद्या सकाळी मंगळवारी ९ .30 वाजता घाटकोपर चिराग नगर पोलिस स्टेशन मधे गोविंदापथका सहित कृष्ण आणि राधा यांच्या समावेत… https://t.co/h0xm2XwOSc
— Ram Kadam – राम कदम (@ramkadam) 1630322473000
“We warn that any violation of state guidelines will invite action. We will register cases and detain violators,” said a senior officer from the eastern suburbs.
Meanwhile the Thane district Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti extended support to the MNS Dahi handi.
(Inputs by Nitasha Natu and Bella Jaisinghani)