Delhi marks a dull Dussehra

Dussehra in Delhi was a low-key affair this year, with restrictions in light of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic forcing several Ramlila programmes to shift online and only four organisers permitted to carry on with the effigy-burning ritual, as against 800 small and big ones last year.

Senior officials in the Delhi revenue department said that last year, around 800 Ramlila organisers had got permission for the ritual, where effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkaran and Meghnad are burnt at open spaces in public view. The height of the effigies can range from a few feet to over a hundred feet.

Such events are often marked by gatherings, food courts, fairs and public celebrations across the city, most of which are restricted this year to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.

“My greetings to everyone on this day which marks the victory of good over evil. Soon, humanity would stand victorious against the covid-19 demon,” chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted on Sunday.

Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia thanked residents of the city for keeping celebrations low-key in the light of the pandemic and rising air pollution. He said, “We must resolve to defeat today’s evils — pollution and Covid-19.”

Delhi on Sunday recorded 4,136 new cases of Covid-19, taking the cumulative number of infections to 356,656 — even as 323,654 people have recovered and 6,258 have died of the disease.

Some of the prominent Ramlila-Dussehra event committees in the city refrained from organising any programmes this year, so they did not seek any permission from the district administration and the police at any stage. The most prominent of these is the Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee, which organises the event every year in the Red Fort premises — an event attended by VIPs and senior political figures, cutting across party lines.

“This is our contribution in ensuring a Covid-free and pollution-free Delhi. We have tried to set an example. Now we shall be campaigning for a firecracker-free Diwali too,” said Arun Kumar, the committee’s general secretary, who met Sisodia at his residence on Sunday, where the committee organised a symbolic celebration.

Several other organisers in the city followed suit.

“It is unsafe to organise anything that can lead to gatherings, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are performing the temple rituals, but there will be no Ramila and effigy burning,” said Yogesh Pahuja, office bearer in the resident welfare association in Lajpat Nagar 2, which is one of the prominent Ramlila organisers in the city.

Some of them went on to organise laser-light shows and cake-cutting ceremonies instead, with no gatherings.

The four organisers who got permission are in Shastri Park, Vinod Nagar, GTB Enclave and Karkardooma, and the size of the permitted effigies in these areas range between 30 and 70 feet. However, the crowd size was limited to 200 in the venues. As a workaround, organisers said they would stream the event live on their Facebook pages.

“We have installed sanitiser dispensers at the gates, and all visitors will be thermally scanned. This year, we will burn four effigies. The fourth one will represent the coronavirus,” said Hareesh Chaudhary of Vishnu Avatar Ramlila in Shastri Park.

Another revenue department official said that around 50 organisers in the city sought permission to burn effigies around a fortnight ago, but were not issued no-objection certificates (NOC) owing to safety reasons.

In the last one month, a lot has gone into convincing these organisers for giving up on plans for the festivities this year, government officials said.

“In one district alone, we have engaged with around 600 temple committees who participate in the Dussehra festivities. We communicated the problems that any potentially large gathering could entail. People have to be more cautious during the festive season”, said Neha Bansal, district magistrate (West Delhi).

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