Monday, July 24, 2006

Price we pay for devotion

I had the misfortune of driving on the NH-24 and NH-2 this weekend. There were traffic jams everywhere caused by the movements of the Kanwariyas. The NH-58 had been closed for vehicular traffic between Delhi and Haridwar for the last few days to facilitate movements of Kanwars. However, on arriving the outskirts of Delhi, they spread out in all directions and so police loses control on them. Out on the busy streets of Delhi, some of them palys havoc to motorists. One reason cited is the lack of political will to regulate the movement of Kanwars within Delhi as this may hit religious sentiments. The result is that Delhites, got trapped in unexpected traffic snarls at many places, specially on the National Highways. Many motorists like me left cooling ourselves in the car ACs burning subsidised petrol. With oil over $75 a barrel, imagine the massive wastage of fuels on those traffic snarls which could have been avoided.

I understood that this Saturday was the last day of this years Kanawariyan season. While the scene of some kanwars with swollen and bandaged foot, yet walking, although gingerly, was heart rendering and one can not stop appreciating their devotion. These are the people who have walked more than 300 kms carrying sacred water of the river Ganga on their shoulders. They have traveled all the way from Haridwar and Rishikesh. The water will be finally offered to Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Somvati Amavasya, falling on this Monday. It appeared to me that kanwars believes that putting more pain on the body may earn them a place in higher echelon in heaven.

Most of the kanwars we met were walking gingerly by road side. Probably dead tired by now, they hardly posed any problem to others sharing the road. Occasionally we met some who seemed to have very little to do with devotion and faith. These are joy seekers for whom religion is just a cover. They bring shame to the religion and faith. Unfortunately, these hoodlums outnumbers genuine devotees and their size is growing by years. They travel in groups and often with vehicles like mini trucks. Loudspeakers on their vehicles were blaring hindi parodies listening to which God really must have gone crazy. Possibilities of them being drunk can not be ruled as being in ecstasy is often associated with Lord Shiva. Their slow moving vehicles are the main culprit for traffic jams. They believe that they had the first right on the busy highways. This year some of them have got indulged in rioting and violence. Few police vehicles were set on fire at Palwal near Faridabad on the NH-2 on last Thursday after some kanawar was hit by a vehicle. Then there was another incident on the Delhi-Jaipur highway following which kanwars jammed the busy highway for hours. Then another incident was reported where such a group hooligan kanwars was brandishing hockey sticks and was hitting any vehicles that tried to overtake them at the busy Dhaula Kuan crossing. This group of kanwars is menace to the society, but no one dare control them. Most of them are young Haryanites, who had bought most of the bad names to Delhi. (But the situation in Bihar is also no better either – the kanwars their will get into your train, including AC compartments)

Fortunately, this year’s kanwariyan season has been over. Hopefully, the Delhi administration will take some concrete steps next year so that such massive loss of fuel and manhours in traffic jams can be avoided.

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