Any attempt to keep the National Capital clean and cosy is commendable. It is with this good intent that the Supreme Court has banned the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region till November 1. This means that there will be no firecrackers during Diwali. It is the festival of lights which can be celebrated without noise. With the traditional propensity to burst as many firecrackers as possible on Diwali, people may find it difficult to have a decibel-free Diwali. Hard solutions are needed to NCR’s air pollution problem. Taking into account the recurring accidents and the consequent human pain and suffering, steps are needed to curb manufacture and sale of firecrackers throughout the country. Bans and fines may not have the desired results but other solutions intended to alter people’s behaviour may work in the long run. We have to teach our people the importance of silence in an otherwise noisy society.
Slogans and public speeches are also making the atmosphere noisy. The National Green Tribunal has come out with an outlandish direction to shift the protest zone in Delhi from the famed Jantar Mantar to Ramlila Maidan. Being the capital city, Delhi is the nerve-centre of protest – from the freedom struggle onwards. Mahatma Gandhi asked Indians to shun foreign goods from Azad Maidan (Queen’s Garden). Anna Hazare undertook fast at Jantar Mantar for Lok Pal. A million people thronged the lawns of the Boat Club to hear JP despite Indira Gandhi’s attempt to keep them away by telecasting the popular romantic film Bobby at the same time as the rally. Jantar Mantar became a virtual extension of Parliament when it became the venue of protest for all and sundry. It is where We the People make their voice heard.
A blanket ban on Jantar Mantar protests, near Kerala House, is unacceptable. The Ram Lila Maidan is too far from Parliament. The NGT order will further shrink the already shrunk public sphere, a desideratum for democracy, made famous by Jurgen Habermas. Democracy will thrive only when public space is expanded and protected. If the noise level is disturbing to the rich and powerful, creative alternatives can be found instead of shutting the space for dissent and protest.