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a street vendor, undressed him and forced him to have sex with her.vision?and I am His kite. The festival offered a meaning to all and sundry: from playful kids to lovers and Sufis; from profit-seekers who developed livelihoods around the festival to the community as a whole Basant was celebrated by all communities prior to Partition: HindusMuslims and Sikhs treated it as a Lahori festival with an identity linked to the city In this milieuAllama Iqbal was known to be an avid kite flier But the post-1947 rise of clerics meant that inclusive cultural practices were to be treated with suspicion For many decadesthe Pakistani mullahs have ranted against Basant as an unIslamic festival and one that endangered public morality Unfazed by these fatwasLahoris continued with the festival It even received state patronage on various occasions A citizen of LahoreMian Yousaf Salahuddin (the grandson of Iqbal)turned his old Lahore haveli into a cultural hub andover timeBasant celebrations became an international attraction By the 1990sproactive civil servants turned Basant into a great regional festival Lahores then deputy commissionerKamran Lashariprovided full backing to the holding of this event in the 1990s That was perhaps the time when Basant also became most controversial due to its scale and the increased hazards of unregulated kite-flying in which metallic or chemical-coated string was used The use of this string instead of the traditional dor caused many deaths each year and the local government was unable to enforce regulations on its usage The metallic wire would get entangled in electricity cables in the old cityleading to electrocution The courts intervened and asked the Punjab government to ban the festival in 2007 Ironicallythe banning of Basant did not take place in the name of religion but through a public interest litigation Howeverthe ideological opponents of Basant have been happy with the outcome and have created an uproar each time someone raised the question of reviving Basant after putting safety measures in place But Lahore is a poorer place now It is devoid of this public celebrationespecially for thousands of impoverished workers in the old city and neighbouring towns where Basant was celebrated with great fervour The last time a major Basant controversy erupted was when Punjabs constitutional head was the slain governorSalman Taseer He was keen on the festival restarting in his tenure and he also asked the provincial government to introduce the required measures But the court ban could not be undone Thusin 2009he held a Basant festival in the lawns of the Governor House and made it an open house for Lahoris Little did he know thatin a couple of yearsa bigot would kill him for his secular and tolerant views Like several other realities of PakistanBasant deaths are a governance failure Local governments tasked with the mandate to enforce social regulation are no longer there Pervez Musharraf had introduced a system of devolved governancewhich was undone by the ruling PPP and its allies and now no political party wants to revive them With local participationthe use of inappropriate kite-flying materials could be checked and controlled But the PML-Nthe ruling party in Punjab with a conservative support baseand an even more conservative judiciary have truncated a cultural continuum It is a separate matter that terror outfits which celebrate death in the name of religion and preach violence are free to operate while a peoples festival is under intense judicial scrutiny and executive control Such are the ironies of contemporary Pakistan The rich and the powerful organise their private parties with great fanfare in well-manicured gardenswhile the ordinary people have to be content with doses of public safety and disguised religiosity Lahores true spring will return the day the Basant ban is removed and its pluralism is rescued from further vandalism in the name of public interest.

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