The first month of the Islamic calendar Muharram-ul-Haram is just around the corner. The authorities say that they have devised a fool-proof strategy and security plan for the peaceful observance of the Muharram-ul-Haram gatherings and processions. However, the district administrations and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) across the country will have to do an additional duty this year, i.e., to ensure that the attendees also follow the safety protocols.

The first ten days of this month in particular, like all other significant days that bring people in close proximity to one another, will be a considerable challenge for the authorities.

Over the last few years, the authorities have greatly enhanced security measures; the LEAs remain on their toes to maintain law and order and avoid any unfortunate event. Terrorism is always a risk, but is no longer a constant threat hanging above our heads. Expectations are high that this time too; the government will take all the steps needed to ensure that the gatherings and processions are carried out safely.

However, this time the concept of safety and security cannot be looked at purely from the lens of terrorism. The idea of safety has evolved as the COVID-19 has hit the world. Now social gatherings, to which people go with no intention of harming others, have become a significant challenge to public health. Therefore, people need to rethink the definition of safety and security.

Our efforts to stem the tide of infections have worked well, but it is important to stay vigilant. If people show laxity in observing the guidelines regarding COVID-19, the situation in the country can get out of hand really quickly.

While the hope is that the government’s security plan will deter any instances of violence or disturbance, the real and main challenge will be implementing safety measures. This time, a lot will depend on the cooperation of the people. The state can keep things normal if the masses cooperate with the government. Otherwise, a surge in COVID-19 cases could take the country back to yet another lockdown.