The Puttingal Temple tragedy in which over a 100 people lost their lives has raised many pertinent questions. Individuals from various spheres of life have been vocal in their call to ban fireworks during Thrissur Puram, one of the biggest Hindu festivals in the state.
However politics, deft manoeuvering, posturing and tough negotiations have ensured that this dangerous practice will not be discontinued anytime soon. Even though people like the chief priest of the Sabarimala temple has stated: “Fireworks are not part of temple festivals.”
Some Christian churches across Kerala have also banned fireworks. Interestingly, what has not been explored yet is the role of the powerful Christian community in this tragic accident. Why has the Zero Malabar Syrian catholic arch bishop not yet come out and spoken against the practice? The Metropolitan Archbishop of Thrissur, Mar Andrews Thazhath has spoken in favor of the pyrotechnics. Read further to find out…
Why bursting firecrackers at Temple festivals is in the interest of Christian businessmen
The Thrissur St Lourde Catholic Church spends Rs 10 lakhs every year on fireworks during festivities. Two years back, the parish vicar suggested not to waste so much money and pollute the environment, instead he advised to built homes for the poor. The committee secretary who happens to be a quarry owner lost his cool and got up to thrash him. The Christian community enjoys monopoly in matters of quarry ownership and M-sand, the rock powder production and as a result hegemony in the society in these areas.
During the Thrissur Puram, more than three lakh people assemble and approximately more than Rs 10 crore of business takes place. Majority of the business owners, shopkeepers in the vicinity happen to belong to the Christian community. For these businessmen, the continuation of the festival in all its pomp and show is imperative as it has a direct bearing on their revenues. They believe the fireworks play an important part in drawing crowds and the absence of it would turn the festivities into a mundane event.
Also, the Christian community engaged in the quarry business are getting the explosives under the pretext of the temple festivals. After independence, no one has been convicted for any firework related accidents. Every individual booked has been acquitted or have been let off with minor fines.
In 2006, there was a huge fire that broke out at a storage facility where the fire crackers were stored. Seven people died, more than 100 were injured. The then SP of the Thrissur, Sandhya was opposed to any fireworks in the festival after the loss of lives in the accident. The committee members of the festival, pressurised the DM Premachandra Kurup to give the nod for the festival. After getting the green signal, the committee made arrangements for the festival, while the dead bodies were lying few meters away.
In AD 654, a Chinese traveller named Ma-huam arrived in Kollam. During early times, Kollam was known as the Venice of India. He was the one who brought gunpowder to Kerala for the first time. Then onwards, church festivals have had gunpowder crackers as part of celebrations.
History shows that Knanaya Christians arrived in Kerala around AD 345. When they reached the shores of Cochin, the local people burst crackers to welcome them. But there is contradiction as to when they actually arrived. Knanaya Christians arrived in India around AD 962. Initially, the firecrackers were used in church festivals, then people began using crackers in Knanaya marriage ceremonies and any other big occasions. Gradually the practice was adopted by Hindu temples as well. Interestingly, there is no mention of bursting firecrackers during festival celebrations at Temples in Upanishads and Vedas. In fact there is no mention at all of firecrackers.
How banned potassium chloride arrived in Kerala?
Intelligence sources cite that during the last few years, some of the Naxalites, coming from Andhra and Chhattisgarh and Orrisa, and arrested in Kerala, reveal a growing nexus between quarry owners and the extremists. Naxals have a manufacturing unit which produces potassium chloride. After they were arrested in Kerala, it was revealed that through Naxals, potassium chloride is entering Kerala in exchange for a safe havens. The quarry owners who order large quantities of it, also ensure safe passage in and out of Kerala to Naxalites.