They’ve banned it again. They’ve always wanted to ban it. Traditionally, the two principal arguments against Basant were that one, it was a Hindu festival and two, that it yielded casualties. Guilty as charged on both counts. The first count is rather silly. So much so, that even the anti- doesn’t mention it too much anymore. Nor will any attempt be made in this space to take it on.The bit about the casualties, however, is most serious. The use of illegal twine has led to some extremely gruesome fatalities, particularly amongst those on bicycles and motorbikes. The knee-jerk reaction of the pro-Basant lobby is to call for the government to regulate it. Herein lies the problem. The state is not omnipotent. Asking for regulation of something as easy to fabricate, like kite-string, is akin to asking for the state to clamp down on thoughtcrime. So, if we cannot ask our already overworked police stations to go about investigating where the killer twine is made, all while jettisoning, say, attempts to break down drug rings, what should we do? One idea could be to restrict the festival to only a day or two and ban motorbikes and bicycles for that day. True, such measures hit the urban poor and lower middle class the hardest but declaring a local holiday would surely minimise that loss.
All of this while ensuring there is at least an executable level of enforcement of the laws against the killer twine.Basant as a festival, is remarkably therapeutic. Its utility as an instrument to create a feeling of well-being in nigh unparalleled. In a country beset by terror and what have you, it is one hell of a safety valve. And all that money doesn’t hurt either. Not just in terms of economic activity but in terms of direct receipts for the city of Lahore. Even the toll collected on the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway jumps up by a quantum leap.Basant is the one festival that is truly our own. As opposed to the stupidity of passing off elitist fashion shows as an ideological fight against the Taliban, as the clueless liberati are wont to, Basant is an entirely indigenous, class-blind festival of inclusive, liberal energy. We owe ourselves this spot of fun – PT