So a significant section of the online right wing has been complaining heavily about the recent Supreme Court decision to ban the use of firecrackers during Diwali, except for a small two-hour window, usually 8 – 10 pm, depending on the state you live in. Believe it or not, there are now people actually getting arrested for playing with firecrackers.
The arrested man could face up to six months in jail. For what? Playing with firecrackers!
Mainstream media has been trying to project those opposing such a ban as paranoid, ignorant and regressive. As people who somehow do not care about the world we live in, nor understand the importance of clean air, healthy water and the dangers of pollution.
Let us dissect this issue and explain the sentiment behind opposing the firecracker ban.
First of all, we have to look at the history of this ban. Last year on Oct 10, the Supreme Court placed a ban on the sale of firecrackers that was to remain in effect till Oct 31. With Diwali 2017 falling on Oct 19, this effectively means that firecrackers are acceptable for every reason except celebrating Diwali.
Is it so unreasonable if some Hindus felt targeted by a ban so narrowly tailored to Diwali?
For example, what if the Indian State had chosen to ban the slaughter of animals for “humanitarian reasons” for exactly one day each year, that day being Bakr-Eid? Wouldn’t it feel like one particular community is being singled out and targeted?
This year, the Honorable Supreme Court has decided that the ban applies not just to Diwali, but to all other occasions, including Christmas and New Year Day. Which is slightly better at a technical level. But, on a practical level, it still amounts to a narrowly tailored ban on Diwali crackers alone.
Why? Because the decision comes 2 weeks before Diwali. Which means that the “green crackers” that are still legal are not even on the market. And some people doubt whether such crackers even exist at all. Even those on NDTV admitted this much openly (see from 2:35).
The manufacturing, government certification and supply chain of “green” crackers simply cannot be completed in 2 weeks. It would take 2-3 months at the very least. Which means that those wanting to celebrate Christmas with crackers will have far better luck than those wanting to celebrate Diwali.
Now let us come to the other main objection. Not only does the ban singularly impact Diwali, one has to wonder why firecrackers are even coming into the discussion at all. There are much bigger sources of pollution, but the liberal ecosystem has been actively hostile to even the slightest government interference in such areas.
A simple anecdote may help. In June this year, there was news that the government was considering ordering AC manufacturers to set the default temperature to 24C. Note that the government did not impose on anyone’s freedom to use their home air conditioner as they chose. It was about setting a default, like keeping a tap in “off” position. You can just turn the tap on and get some water.
But the hostility from the liberal ecosystem was intense.
Can you really blame an ordinary Hindu for complaining when he sees the same Nidhi Razdan on NDTV, appearing to cheer a firecracker ban?
Note that using an air conditioner is among the worst things you can do to the environment. They use greenhouse gases that can warm the earth at thousands of times the pace of carbon dioxide. Yes, you read that right. In fact, representatives from nearly 200 countries met in Vienna to try and put an end to the greenhouse gas emissions caused by air conditioners.
In India where an air conditioner is still seen as a relative luxury, this also plays into all sorts of issues about class and wealth. Crores of common Hindus celebrate Diwali and few of them can afford an air conditioner. The government talks of setting a default temperature on ACs and privileged journalists make it appear as if the basic structure of the Indian Constitution is under threat!
So air conditioners are choking the world. What else?
This comes from a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States. For those who may not know, the PNAS is among the top candidates for the most prestigious journal in the world. For most scientists in the world, a published article in PNAS is a lifetime achievement.
This is not an RSS conspiracy. This is real science demanding that Indian liberals must choose between their two most celebrated causes: eating beef and pretending to care for the environment.
And it just so happens that accepted science has proven beyond doubt that eating beef is a way to destroy the world. Even among all kinds of meat, beef is the absolute worst. Beef production uses 28 times more land and 11 times more water than the production of pork or chicken.
So when are Indian liberals getting those PILs ready? Who wants a total ban on beef? Don’t you care about the environment?
But we have all seen the discourse around beef in India. How many news channels have run #RightToBreathe hashtags supporting a ban on beef?
Do you want to really save the environment? Here are three things you can do.
Ban Beef. Ban Beef. Ban Beef.
Did you know that livestock produces 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases, more than all cars and aeroplanes put together?
The arguments for banning beef are exactly the same as those for banning Diwali firecrackers. With the happy exception that a ban on beef can actually save the world.
What bothers many Hindus like me is not that we might have to give up our favorite Diwali crackers for the wellness of the earth. What bothers us is the unfairness of it all. The air conditioners of celebrity journalists must work at full blast. Also, the right to eat beef appears to be a fundamental right, even if beef is the No.1 way of killing the planet. Only Diwali crackers must go.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.