By bringing a popular star, organising committees think their fest was a success, conveniently ignoring the ruckus and lack of security beside the glamorous stage.
Perhaps, it’s an Indian thing: no regard for personal space and history of crowd disasters. Everyone- the organizers or the participants- has normalised trampling and minor injuries. It’s seen as an indispensable part of fest experience. This explains why the President of Lady Irwin College, Nikita Tiwari, bombarded the comments’ section of our Facebook post that reported the injuries and mismanagement suffered by the guests at Quintessence’19 instead of accepting responsibility. In the same breath where they admit to being crowded, she stated how such incidents are common and regaled the tale of hard work that goes into organising fests.
At Reverie’19, the annual cultural fest of Gargi College, reports of rampant sexual harassment were especially shameful, considering the fest theme emphasised consent’s significance. Gargi’s Union had substantial time to craft a sensible reply and do a self-assessment but it chose to deliver a response devoid of any apology, even taking credit for victims who voiced their experience, by stating- “Their standing against the discomfort experienced by them due to some ill elements present in the crowd, stood testimony to the success of our theme.”
Maghendra Pratap Singh, Cultural Secretary of Hindu College Parliament, told DU Beat that the medical room in a building in the sports’ ground was open, and volunteers were available to assist anyone who needed help. Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) was on the same bandwagon, but both the colleges failed to provide concrete answers about why this information wasn’t publicised. In case of an emergency, how can a non-Hindu or non-SRCC student be expected to know where the medical room is? Does the union expect the aggrieved to look for volunteers, instead of rushing to a designated help desk that should have been placed?
In the backdrop of Pulwama attacks, India is vulnerable to terrorist attacks; fests, like all mass gatherings, have a risk of being a terrorist attack target, which makes the first line of security at the entrance gate crucial. The top colleges of India seem to forget this and open their gates for all. On the last day of Mecca (Hindu College), the gates were left open without guards at later hours of the fest. The Parliament had no response for this. In SRCC, the entry (that was initially via passes for non-SRCC students) was opened for all. When asked about it, a union member said the decision was made by the administration to curb passes’ sale.
There is also a trend of hiring bouncers from private firms to guard star nights. The SHO of Maurice Nagar, Mr. RA told DU Beat that police can provide close to 100 personnel for a DU fest, but witnesses present only saw a maximum of 12-15 men.
At the risk of being highbrow, LSR practices strictness like no entry post 4 p.m. and pass-entry only. Kaushiki Arha, President of the LSR Union, explains how the security team of Tarang had a total of nine heads and sub-heads, around 30 core team members with close to 600 volunteers who were divided into different slots over three days. She said that in addition to basic medical facilities available in the campus, they tied up with Apollo Hospital, who provided them with a doctor and an ambulance on the second day of the fest since it was expected to see the highest turn-out. LSR doesn’t hire any private security, and has proven to be self-sufficient in terms of crowd control. If Tarang can have this sorted, then why can’t others
If organising committees can spend to book popular celebrities, then it is realistic to expect that they make sure that barricades, police, ambulance, entry-exit procedure, etc. are in place. The only reason why we see a pattern of crowd disaster is that unions don’t care enough about security. No doubt that immense efforts are invested in organising a fest, but the argument here is of a continuous negation of apt security measures. With manpower, money, and time, the organisers don’t get to play helpless when things go south.
Feature Image Credits: Rishabh Gogoi for DU Beat