Tragedy at Grand Bassin


The tragic accident that happened at Mare Longue along the Grand Bassin annual pilgrimage of Maha Shivaratree has claimed the lives of two or more pilgrims and left a number of others badly injured. It is quite possibly a horrific accident that could have been avoided. But as we share the grief of stricken families during this major spiritual event, as many do their best to express their solidarity with those who have to cope with such tragic losses and scars, now is not the time to apportion blame and point fingers. Nevertheless, and with these thoughts in mind, this tragedy calls for a few comments.

There is no denying that the organisation of the Maha Shivaratree religious and spiritual festival, which sees the participation of more than half of the local population and pilgrims as well as foreign tourists every year, has tremendously improved over the years thanks to the input of different socio-cultural associations, the State-sponsored Task Force, local and central authorities in terms of infrastructure upgradation, health and police logistics. Notwithstanding the riot of loud music, large crowds and traffic resulting in disturbances and jams that obtain on certain days, it is the remarkable week-long solidarity and hospitality that is extended round the clock to Maha Shivaratree pilgrims all the way to Grand Bassin and back all over the island that gives a special and perhaps unique cachet to the festival both in the hindu fraternity and in Mauritius.

What is deplorable however is the unacceptable politicking that has quietly encroached into the religious sphere by ruling parties of the day down the years. One would recall the incident involving the Mangal Mahadev Shakti Swarooopa Assosiation – perceived to be close to an Opposition party in recent years, which saw the tent it had put up to conduct prayers pulled down on the ground that permission had not been sought from the Task Force. When the State is allowed or prodded to interfere into the religious field in this manner, that would open the way for the appropriation of the festival and its organisation by the powers that be.

Government’s intervention should be limited to, among others, providing welfare and to protecting citizens by ensuring that the rules governing society are adhered to. When the rules are not respected in business, the consumer may be fleeced; on the streets, accidents happen – like the one that yesterday took the lives of the pilgrims carrying oversized kanwars. The devotion, time and funds that go into the making of kanwars over several months is remarkable and many might say that’s a laudable way to harness the energies of the youths rather than loitering by shopping malls, but rules, in particular traffic and other rules, have to be enforced.Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 17 February 2023

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