Sadhus banned from smoking ganja during festival

sadhusGUWAHATI (ASSAM): The authorities in Assam have enforced a ban on use of cannabis and marijuana by sadhus during the five-day Ambubachi mela, which began here on Monday.It was for the first time that the Tobacco Control Cell has decided to make the Kamakhya temple premises free from marijuana smoke.

The Ambubachi mela, which marks the Hindu belief of annual menstruation of the Mother Goddess — the ruling deity here — as also Mother Earth, draws several lakh devotees, with the authorities this time expecting about eight lakh.
The temple doors will remain shut for four days with devotees waiting until its reopening on Thursday.

Admitting that it was a Herculean task for the Tobacco Control Cell to enforce this ban on sadhus, the authorities of the cell said: “The district administration and even the police was extending a pro-active support in enforcing this ban but it was certainly a challenge as it involves religious sentiment.”

Nodal officer of the cell Smiran Baruah said: “We have asked sadhus not to smoke marijuana in public. They can smoke in isolated areas away from temple.”

Informing that the authorities have started imposing fine, and at least two persons under the COTPA (Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act) were booked for smoking in public places, Baruah said: “We have been talking to sadhus in small groups, trying to tell them about the hazards of public smoking.”

The authorities have also sought the help of the Kamakhya Debuttar Board to minimise bhang use, especially in view of the large number of women, children and elderly people visiting the Ambubachi mela. – From The Asian Age

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