Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh): Around 260 people were injured in the stone-pelting at centuries-old traditional "Gotmar Fair" in Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. The condition of four persons is stated to be serious.
As the situation worsened, police lobbed teargas shells and cane-charged the crowd to disperse them. An enraged crowd damaged an ambulance and a police vehicle, according to a police official.
In view of the bloody past of the Gotmar Fair, when people had even lost their lives, the district administration had put proper security measures in place in Pandhurna village, where the event takes place. It had also installed CCTV cameras and even clamped prohibitory orders, but the bloody stone-pelting could not be prevented.
Chhindwara District Magistrate J.K. Jain told IANS: "Four people have been seriously injured in the stope-pelting at the Gotmar Fair and some others have also received minor injuries, who were allowed to go after the first aid."
However, some officials seeking anonymity said that nearly 260 people were injured, out of which four persons were in serious condition and that they had been rushed to Nagpur in Maharashtra for treatment.
Pandhurna is a village, nearly 90 km away from Chhindwara city, where the fair is organised on the banks of river Jam every year the day after Pola festival.
In Gotmar Fair, known as one of the bloodiest fairs in the world, a tree is erected in the middle of the river with a flag on top. Villagers from Sawargaon and Pandhurna throng either sides of the river and both sides try to approach the tree to remove the flag by pelting stones at each other. Those who are able to remove the flag first are declared winners.
The ritual, according to the local legend, began some 300 years ago, after a boy of Pandhurna went to Sawargaon and kidnapped a girl. When he was returning to his village through the river, the Sawargaon villagers spotted him and threw stones at him.
On seeing their village boy under attack, the people of Pandhurna hurled stones at the other side and the boy along with the girl reached his place safely.