Around 40 mosques in Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur are being covered with plastic sheets ahead of Holi to prevent miscreants from throwing colour on the structures and disturb communal harmony in the town, a senior official has said.
Following an 18th-century tradition, Holi in Shahjahanpur begins with revellers hurling footwear at a 'Laat Saab' procession featuring a buffalo cart and a hapless man personifying a Britisher.
The mosques are located along the route of the procession, the official said, adding that a thick security blanket will be thrown across the town where the law and order machinery will be under the charge of 225 magistrates.
According to Shahjahanpur City Superintendent of Police, Sanjay Kumar, the mosques along the procession route are being covered with plastic sheets from top to bottom to ensure people do not throw colour or any objectionable object at the structures and disturb communal amity.
“The mosques will be covered before Holika Dahan (March 28). Some of them have already been covered," Kumar said.
"The façade of the mosques have been covered with hoardings. Some of the roads which fall on the route of the procession have been barricaded and will be closed a day in advance, so that no anti-social element can disturb the procession," he added.
Kumar said preventive action was initiated against 200 people while CCTV cameras have been installed along the route of the procession while drone cameras will also be used to monitor the crowd.
Additional District Magistrate (administration) Ramsevak Dwivedi told PTI that 225 magistrates will be deployed to ensure maintenance of law and order.
District Magistrate Indra Vikram Singh and Superintendent of Police S Anand on Wednesday held a meeting with Muslim religious leaders and sought their cooperation for peaceful conclusion of the programme.
Hundreds of people are expected to gather in Shahjahanpur as preparations have begun for the 'juta maar' Holi on March 29.
Elaborating on the history of the procession of 'Laat Saab', Vikas Khurana, the head of History department of Swami Shukdevanand College, had told PTI, "On the day of Holi, the procession of 'Bade Laat Saab' is taken out on a buffalo cart with Holi revellers hurling 'jutas' (footwear) at him."
The Holi tradition dates back to the early 18th century during the time of Nawab Abdullah Khan, the last emperor of the dynasty that founded Shahjahanpur, who was popular among both Hindus and Muslims.
The tradition of people taking out a procession with the nawab seated on a camel continued till 1857.
However, this event symbolising the Hindu-Muslim unity was not liked by the British, and in 1858, Mardan Ali Khan, the commander of Bareilly's military ruler Khan Bahadur Khan, attacked the revellers and both Hindus and Muslims were killed in the violence.
In 1859, when the Nawab took out the procession on Holi, footwear were hurled at it on the instigation of the British rulers.
After Independence in 1947, the tradition was revived and the administration changed the name of the procession to 'Laat Saab' to symbolise the oppressive British regime. Since then it is known by this name.
The celebrations have two parts -- the processions of 'Bade Laat Saab' and 'Chhote Laat Saab'.
The procession of 'Bade Laat Saab' begins from Phoolmati Devi Mandir and proceeds towards Baba Vishwanath Mandir.
Similarly, the procession of 'Chhote Laat Saab' begins from Ram Chandra Mission ke Sarai and culminates there itself after a short march.
(With inputs from PTI)