There was a strong gust of wind some days ago. It swept around the city, a wave of gladness. It was the Traffic Police in the National Capital Region heaving a heartfelt, collective sigh of relief. Joined in, with full, almost gale force by the residents of the region.
Why so much feeling you ask?
The “kanwar yatra” for the year had finished. 10 long days of diverted, slow and sometimes completely stalled traffic had come and gone.
But I must explain. Courtesy Wikipedia-the facts on what the yatra is, as below:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Kānvar Yatrā or Kavad Yatra (Devanagari: काँवर यात्रा or कांवड़ यात्रा) is an annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, known as Kānvarias, to Hindu pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand to fetch holy waters of Ganges River, Ganga Jal, which is later offered at their local Shiva temples. The Yatra takes place during the sacred month of Shravan (Saawan) (July -August), according to the Hindu calendar.
Kanwar Yatra is named after the kānvar (काँवर), a single pole (usually made of bamboo) with two roughly equal loads fastened or dangling from opposite ends. The kānvar is carried by balancing the middle of the pole on one or both shoulders. The Hindi word kānvar is derived from the Sanskrit kānvānrathi (काँवाँरथी). Kānvar-carrying pilgrims, called Kānvariās, carry covered water-pots in kānvars slung across their shoulders. This practice of carrying Kavad as a part of religious pilgrimage, especially by devotees of Lord Shiva, is widely followed throughout India (see Kavadi). Yatra means a journey or procession.
This “yatra” has been on, possibly for hundreds of years. However, over the past 20 years or so, its politicisation has gained it fame and mostly notoriety. Hardline Hindutva driven parties such as the RSS, fund this all expense paid trip for young, unemployed mean, who have nothing better to do.
Thus, the handful of staunch devotees undertaking this fairly arduous journey have been joined by a huge throng of orange clad, hockey wielding , loud and raucous thugs. They rule the roads for these 10 days and seriously shake ones faith in religion and god. Unfortunately, the few who are the genuine thing get tarred with the same brush of being goons.
Not popular-these “kanwariyas”. Feared, disliked, disdained. Sadly negative emotions to a journey of faith and god for a few. The piety of the pilgrims is rarely appreciated.
Perhaps because the majority don’t seem to be exhibiting much of it…..
The route they follow sprouts Camps for them to rest and relax and food and sustenance are available here. To beguile the tedium of this wait, high decibel, ear drum shattering music, set to popular film songs, and invoking Lord Shiva is played at odd hours. The ultimate in keeping with the times!-Disco Devotion.
All the roads they follow now also have a walking lane demarcated for them and a posse of policemen and security guards direct vehicular and all other “non-kanwariya” traffic so no one bruises them with even a harsh word even-lest they get hurt and a riot erupts! Yes-this is what is possible and invariably happens in a disagreement-however mild, with a “devout” kanwariya. Whether the other person is justified in their action or not, incidents involving “kanwariyas” have escalated into full scale mob fighting and destruction of cars and other public and private property.
Without a doubt, some of the accidents HAVE been negligence and apathy…but resorting to violence and harming innocent people cannot possibly be a justification for the outright bullying behaviour of these supposed devotees.
At the end of the 10 days, they depart loaded in hugely decorated trucks and other vehicles, the “Disco Devotion Albums” at their loudest….incidentally vandalising a public bus, beating up the odd businessman and completely and totally jamming all roads on the Ghaziabad part of town…..and when I say jamming-I don’t mean music.
The authorities show a huge amount of preparedness in handling them now, which is why, demarcated lanes and policemen in droves. If only so much planning and care went into the routine business of traffic, rules, protection and security…there would be fewer accidents, lesser violations of rules, better road management and altogether a safer city?
Yes-this preparation IS in-fact protecting the city and its people from the politically backed, highly misplaced, hooliganism promoted under the guise of religion and god. All to the end of securing a vote bank and muscle power of a bunch of thugs.
I wish a journey of reverence for some had not been turned into a potentially violent, un-enjoyable circus of some ridicule.
I wish they would leave God alone for us.