Meerut Mayor Sunita Varma has sought to cancel cultural programmes during the centuries-old Nauchandi Mela as she believes it will disturb the Muslims during the month of Ramzan. It is the first time in the history of the Mela that it is facing such an order. The programmes were to continue till the 19th of May, however, the Mayor has decided to put a stop to it due to Ramzan.
Sunita Varma, who is a member of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), told Indian Express, “A number of Muslim leaders living in the vicinity of the Nauchandi fair venue…have appealed to me to get these programmes cancelled as they will distract them from offering prayers. I have written a letter to the city commissioner, Manoj Kumar Chauhan, urging him to… respect religious sentiments.”
BJP councillors see the Mayor’s move as an attempt to create a division between Hindus and Muslims. “The (mayor)’s letter is nothing but a conspiracy to drive a wedge between the two communities. Cultural programmes during the fair have been organised for ages. None of our Muslim brothers have objected so far. Why now?” asked BJP councillor Pawan Jindal as per the Indian Express report.
Similar restrictions on Hindu events have been placed in other states in the past as well. The most notable was Mamata Bannerjee’s restrictions on Vijaya Dashami as the dates clashed with Muharram. It also appears that only Hindu festivals are eligible to be restricted or banned. Sometimes, they are banned to protect the environment and on other occasions, for the sake of Muslim sentiments. Last year, the sale of firecrackers was banned in the Delhi/NCR region by the Supreme Court. On another occasion, the height of the Dahi Handi was also regulated by the Judiciary. Darjeeling Administration had banned the celebration of Chhat Puja in Siliguri on river banks over environmental reasons.