Despite ban, Madhya Pradesh stone pelting ritual continues

BHOPAL - Despite imposing a ban on a ritual in which people hurl stones at each other, the authorities in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara district were unable to stop people from throwing stones during the annual Gotmaar Mela that leaves hundreds injured.

The administration had banned the ritual following directives of the state human rights commission and offered the participants its full support in holding any other cultural and religious event.

Last year the ritual claimed a man’s life and left over 400 injured.

Describing the tradition of stone throwing as “inhuman and criminal”, the Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) had directed the district administration not to allow it henceforth.

The district administration has put in place heavy security to prevent the ritual but the situation slipped out of control soon after the fair started Friday morning.

The frenzied participants started attacking the administration officials and policemen.

This is not the first time that the administration has tried to stop the ritual and failed. In order to contain the number of injured in the festival, the administration introduced rubber balls instead of stones in 2001 and 2002 but participants switched back to stones in 2003.

The Gotmaar festival is celebrated every year on the day after the new moon in Bhadrapad month of the Hindu calendar.

During the festival, men from Pandhurna and Sawargaon villages, located on opposite banks of the river Jamna in Chhindwara district, about 400 km from here, hurl stones at each other.

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