Parents happy with ban on children under 12 taking part in dahi handis
“It is good that they have finally banned children below 12 years from participating in Dahi handis. It is so dangerous! I think anyone aged below 15 should be disallowed from taking part,” Sanjay Gaikwad, father of a 7-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy opened up after a lot of coaxing.
Both his children have participated in dahi handis in the city, representing the prestigious Mazgaon Taadwadi group, which has been setting records for the tallest dahi handis. Last year, they formed a human pyramid of 10 tiers — more than 45 feet tall.
Dahi handis are an important part of the colourful festival of Gokulashtami celebrated every year. More than 1,200 troupes participate in the dahi handi competitions across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. Every troupe generally has three to four children aged between five and 12 to climb the last tier of the pyramid.
The Maharashtra government had recently banned children below 12 years from participating in this sport, which has received tremendous political patronage lately. Troupes of govindas have been climbing ridiculously high human layers for lakhs of rupees distributed as winning kitty by the politicians. The number of accidents due to this have been a cause of concern.
“Hopefully, this decision will now bring down the rising tiers. The sport has lost its fun these days due to the political patronage. It has turned into an ugly competition. The government should also bring a rule to restrict the tiers now. Let everyone enjoy this as a sport. Let us have only five or six tiers. What is the need for taking such risks?” asks Usha Gaikwad. She says she feels so scared that she dare not watch her kids climb the last tier.
“Children get influenced by their surroundings, they act due to peer pressure. Otherwise even they would feel scared to climb so high,” Mr. Gaikwad said.
‘It’s for God’
Asked why they wanted to take part in the dahi handis, many children said they did it for God. “It brings us luck and happiness if we do this for God,” said Om Pillare (10).
The close-knit communities residing in the city’s chawls are generally the ones which send their children to climb the pyramids. Due to social pressure, it is not acceptable to express apprehensions and fear about the tradition. Many old hands who are a part of the govinda pathaks (troupes which break the curd pots) regard the game as a symbol of courage.
Many parents thanked the government for the decision. But the organisers have a different take and rue that they were not given a hearing.
“The ban is a very strong step. Some amicable solution could have been arrived it had we been consulted. Children should be made to play. They will remain agile due to this,” said Bala Padilkar, an office-bearer of Dahi handi co-ordination committee of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. He said the committee would knock on the government’s doors for reversal of the decision.