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Kenya's Hindus Can Light Fireworks On Diwali--As Long As They Make No Noise
on 2013/11/4 18:36:59 ( 1134 reads )

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NAIROBI, KENYA, October 29, 2013 (Quartz): Terrorism fears here, a little more than a month after the Westgate mall attacks, have prompted a ban on fireworks during the Indian holiday, often celebrated with the eating of sweets, the exchange of gifts, the lighting of candles, and lots of fireworks.

Government officials say they fear that criminals and terrorists could use the cover of fireworks and festivities to infiltrate crowds and cause mayhem. This will be the third year the government is imposing a ban.

It's putting a damper on some celebrations. Ansuya Patel, 55, says that usually Diwali means gathering at someone's house, or at one of the gymkhanas, or community clubs. This year however, she says, the meals, parties, and even jewelry will be simple, mainly comprised of close family members gathering. She will be going to the temple that day. (Diwali falls on Nov. 3.)

Although the government has permitted the use of "noiseless" fireworks, several members of the Hindu community here say they won't even bother and would prefer to keep revelry low key. Patel says: "This time there won't even be the noiseless fireworks. We do not plan to visit this year, and we are not expecting visitors. We will celebrate simply."

Celebrations have been muted since Kenya's military intervention in Somalia in 2011. Now, fears of attacks by Al-Shabaab, the terrorist group behind the Westgate mall attack (along with a recent spike in violent crime) has snuffed out the remaining sparks.

It's the prevailing mood in the country, says Swaran Verma, chairman of Kenya's Hindu Council. The Indian community lost more than 20 of its own, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims, in the Sept. 21 attacks. Verma said that the focus this year during Diwali would be on prayer and not entertainment. He added that the estimated Hindu community of 70,000 had received approval to use noiseless fireworks, which light up but make no sound.

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