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IANS

At least 200 people were injured in centuries-old tradition of stone-pelting between two villages flanking the banks of the river Jam in Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara district.

As per the reports, the injured are undergoing treatment at a hospital in Maharashtra's Nagpur where condition of half-a-dozen of them are stated to be critical.

Locally called 'gotmar' the fair is held every year on a particular day and every time hundreds of people participate and get injured.

The annual 'gotmar' (stone pelting) fair is held on the fifteenth day of the dark fortnight (Shanichari Amavasya) of Hindi month of Bhadrapada. Residents of two villages, located on either side of the river 'Jam' in Chhindwara district enthusiastically participate in this dangerous ritual.

It forms a part of a tradition that goes back to at least five centuries. On the occasion, the district administration declares 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 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.

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