K’taka village defies distancing norms to celebrate annual festival, organisers booked

After being denied permission, the organisers had decided to hold a small symbolic procession on Thursday which quickly grew into a massive affair attracting thousands.
K’taka village defies distancing norms to celebrate annual festival, organisers booked
K’taka village defies distancing norms to celebrate annual festival, organisers booked
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The residents of Haveri district's Karjagi village hold an annual three-day fair around this time every year on the occasion of 'Kara Hunnime’, a festival to mark the end of summer and the beginning of monsoon. But this year, the organisers were denied permission by the police due to physical distancing norms in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tehsildar had also written to the Deputy Commissioner of Haveri on May 26, requesting that the procession should not be held since it would be difficult to follow distancing norms. 

Therefore, the organisers decided to forgo the festival this year, and instead hold a symbolic procession on Thursday evening to pay their respects to the Brahmalingeshwara deity. However, the small bullock cart procession to be attended only by the organising committee members quickly grew into a massive affair with thousands of devotees gathering at the venue in Karjagi village. Visuals of the event show the annual procession being attended by the village residents with hardly anyone wearing masks or maintaining physical distance. 

"A case has been registered against members of the fair's organising committee. We had discussed with the committee and asked them to refrain from celebrating the festival this year. The organising committee members were of the belief that they still wanted to go ahead and hold a fair symbolically with only the committee members present," says Haveri Superintendent of Police KG Devaraju. 

Even though prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC (disallowing gathering of more than five people at a public place) were put in place, the annual festival attracted thousands of people from in and around Karjagi. 

"It is their age-old belief and it was very difficult to convince them of the dangers of the coronavirus outbreak and the need to follow physical distancing norms. We cannot treat this as a law and order problem and disperse the gathering using force. We can only appeal to them. But we will be initiating a case against the committee members now," KG Devaraju added. 

Haveri Rural Police have now booked 69 people under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. "We will be writing to the judge and an enquiry will be conducted as per the judge's order," KG Devaraju said.

The festival held annually in Karjagi village is attended by over 50,000 people according to police officials in the district. 

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