Annual stone-pelting festival in MP's Chhindwara leaves 200 injuredtext_fields
Bhopal: In Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara district, a centuries-old custom of stone-pelting between two villages that flank the banks of the river Jam resulted in at least 200 injuries.
According to reports, the injured are receiving medical care in a hospital in Nagpur, Maharashtra, where half a dozen are said to be in severe condition.
The fair, known locally as "gotmar," is held annually on a specific day, and each year hundreds of participants suffer injuries.
The annual 'gotmar' (stone pelting) fair is held on the fifteenth day of the dark fortnight (Shanichari Amavasya) of the Hindi month of Bhadrapada. Residents of two villages, located on either side of the river 'Jam' in the Chhindwara district enthusiastically participate in this dangerous ritual.
It forms a part of a tradition that goes back to at least five centuries. On this occasion, the district administration declares a public holiday and even liquor shops remain shut. Surprisingly, the stone-pelting is held in the presence of heavy police personnel who simply watch as they are not supposed to interfere in the so-called ritual.
According to reports, since 1955, over a dozen people have succumbed to injuries from stone pelting. While at least 100 people were reportedly injured in 2020, the count was 250 in the following year. Officials recall that in 1978 and 1987, the local police had to resort to firing after mobs from both sides attacked each other as well as the police personnel.
District officials said: "Several attempts over the years to dissuade the villages to give up the dangerous ritual have failed. Even during the two Covid years, some residents managed to keep up the tradition despite all preventive measures."
Every year, the local administration deploys teams of doctors and paramedics at the fair venue for the timely treatment of those injured.
As a part of the annual Gotmar fair, the two sides stock up rocks and pelt each other with them, injuring dozens. Legend has it that two love birds (the girl from Sanwargaon and the boy from Pandhurna village) died after being caught in the middle of stone-pelting involving the two sides near the Jam river.
This year, the fair was held on Saturday.
With inputs from IANS