Allahabad, Feb 23 (IANS) The Kumbh Mela administration Saturday banned photography at all bathing ghats at the religious congregation, officials said.
Vide a letter ST/SSP/C-14/2013 dated Feb 21, the senior superintendent of police (Kumbh) has directed all policemen and other security personnel on duty in the mela premises to ensure that no one was allowed to click pictures at bathing ghats.
Throwing the ghats off bounds for shutterbugs and photo journalists who have converged from all over the world and also the common man, the administration cited the clause 18 of the Sanyukt Mela Prant Adhiniyam, 1940 and has said that the high court had also issued directives on banning photography there.
Boards have also been put up at the bathing ghats informing everyone of the ban on photography, said a senior official. The additional mela adhikari of Kumbh told IANS that the ban includes photo journalists, media persons and also electronic media journalists who will now not be allowed to film the bathing.
The media centre officials were tight-lipped about the fate of the hundreds of passes it had issued to photo and video journalists to cover the mega event.
Allahabad Divisional Commissioner Devesh Chaturvedi, the senior most official overseeing the Kumbh, confirmed to IANS that the mela administration had indeed banned photography at bathing ghats.
"This has been done primarily to ensure that the directives of the high court are met with and also to stop unnecessary problems," he said, adding that the passes issued to photo journalists would only allow them to click "general pictures".
The order is likely to disappoint the camera fraternity into despair as hundreds of photographers are camping at the Kumbh to capture the momentous bathing scenes.
"I find this surprising as in the past month or so since the Kumbh started in January, it has been largely a media event where photographers were all around," said Sandeep Malkania, a New Delhi-based freelance photo journalist.
Many officials attributed the decision to the recent stampede at the Allahabad railway station that left 37 dead and the subsequent negative media coverage of the arrangements at the Kumbh following incessant rains. A French journalist was also detained for flying very low on a chopper to click some close shots of the bathing on Mauni Amavasya.
Police officials conceded in private that the decision was taken "majorly because of security concerns specially after the Mauni Amavasya stampede and the Hyderabad serial blasts".
"The clauses being invoked now and the court directives cited now have always been there but they are being enforced strictly now to avoid any major embarrassment at this juncture of the Kumbh when just a fortnight is left for its conclusion," said a senior police officer.