By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Mar. 30: This year, like last year, the authorities had requested people to avoid crowds and adopt precautions while celebrating Fagu. But unlike last year, the people didn’t respect the request, choosing to come out in groups and celebrate in close proximity without wearing masks or sanitizers.
People’s disregard for the coronavirus was clearly visible at Basantapur, Kathmandu where an uncomfortably large number gathered and celebrated carelessly on Sunday, said Anjan Maskey, a local.
“The place was empty in the morning but as the day progressed, people started gathering and by the evening, the entire durbar square was filled with inebriated people who neither had masks on nor maintained social distancing,” he said. It was the same situation in Mangalbazaar, Lalitpur, as well where there was a mass celebration from around 2 in the afternoon to eight in the evening on Sunday. “There were scores of people dancing, drinking and smearing colour to each other – no masks, no gloves, no sanitizers. If one person there had COVID-19, just imagine how many other people he would infect,” said Keshav Shrestha who runs a grocery store in the area.
Around 5,000 police personnel had been deployed in the Kathmandu Valley to ensure a proper and civilised Fagu.
According to the Metropolitan Police Office, the revellers found to be engaged in improper and rowdy behaviour in the name of festivities were taken under control including those flouting health regulations.
“I saw the police confronting some celebrators but there were just so many people in so many areas that it was impossible for them to strictly enforce the safety rules,” Maskey added.
Such reckless celebrations were especially risky considering the increasing number of coronavirus cases in India, said Dr. Sameer Mani Dixit, general secretary of the Nepal Public Health Foundation and the director of research at the Centre for Molecular Dynamics Nepal.
“People came in physical contact while putting colours on each other, they were wet and they didn’t have masks on. Such an environment enables the spread of the virus and, god forbid, we may see disastrous results down the line,” he said. “Instead of requesting, the government should have ordered people to avoid large Holi celebrations and the people themselves should have been more aware of their and their family’s health.”
However, in the larger context, the fervour around Holi has been dying down. Our Lahan correspondent Jibachh Yadav writes that armed conflict, political upheavals, insecurity and excessive use of alcohol has dented the once communal scope of the festival. “People stopped celebrating in groups after the Maoist insurgency began,” shared Raj Kumar Raut, a human rights activist in the district. “People drinking alcohol and getting into fights has also robbed the festival of its joy.” Retired teacher Ram Bihari Sah recalled how people from all walks of life used to partake in the Holi