Authorities are bolstering security throughout India ahead of Diwali, a major Hindu festival and national holiday celebrated this year on Nov. 14. While celebrations will be largest on Nov. 14, some rituals and events will take place Nov. 12-15. Tens of thousands of Hindus traditionally participate in large religious and celebratory gatherings at religious sites and public squares during the holiday, though participation in many areas may be limited due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) gathering restrictions.
Security forces will remain on alert nationwide due to the increased threat of militant attacks by domestic and international Islamist groups during the holiday period. Authorities have deployed additional security personnel to monitor possible target sites, including religious buildings, procession routes, transport hubs, and crowded public places like shopping malls. Border security units at air force bases, as well as the Coast Guard and Indian Navy, may increase patrols to prevent infiltration from Pakistan. Security arrangements are unlikely to directly affect multinational business interests unless militants stage any significant attacks.
Although significant unrest is unlikely, violence may break out between religious groups during major religious holidays. Hindu-Muslim confrontations are possible, especially in areas with heightened religious tensions, such as parts of Uttar Pradesh State. Any incidents of communal violence could prompt authorities to impose localized curfews and telecommunication restrictions. Skirmishes are possible in some areas if police disperse crowds to enforce COVID-19 restrictions. Increased opportunistic crime, such as theft, could take place at large gatherings. Stampedes due to overcrowding are also possible.
Impact on Transport and Business Operations
Travel delays are possible, especially in urban centers around the holiday. Authorities will likely enforce road closures, traffic diversions, and heavy vehicle restrictions around prominent worship venues. Increased congestion is probable on open roads; ground shipping may be temporarily affected. Officials have introduced additional train and bus services to alleviate congestion caused by the large numbers of people traveling to their hometowns for the holidays.
Most businesses, including banks, will close on the scheduled national holiday Nov. 14. Individual states may declare additional public holidays Nov. 12-15. Some establishments may alter business hours.
Advice and Considerations
Exercise caution around religious venues and other sites commonly identified as potential militant targets. Confirm business appointments, deliveries, road status, and transport reservations through at least Nov. 15. Allow additional travel time and plan for alternative travel and shipment routes. Carry identification documents to present at security checks; heed all official instructions.
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