Gotmar Mela: Stone pelting injures over 200 in Chhindwara
More than 200 people were hurt while two others were seriously injured after taking part in traditional stone pelting during the Gotmar Mela on the banks of river Jam in Chhindwara district on Friday.
The two injured were referred to Nagpur for treatment, Chhindwara district collector JK Jain told HT.
“As only two persons were seriously injured in the fair, it suggests there is a decline in the number of villagers participating in the fair compared to previous years,” Jain said.
About 37 people were admitted to the health centre in Pandhurna while others were treated in a facility developed near the spot of the fair.
At the centuries-old event, which is one of the bloodiest fairs in the world, villagers from Savargaon and Pandhurna throng either sides of river Jam during the fair where a tree is erected in the middle of the river with a flag on top. Both the sides approach the tree to remove the flag by pelting stones at each other and those who remove the flag first, are declared winners.
Villagers use medium sized round stones found in river beds and hurl stones at each other with slings, despite prohibitory orders.
The administration organised other sports activities on the ground of the Nagar Palika to divert the attention of the villagers, but it failed to discourage the crowd from taking part in the traditional event.
“Villagers in Khadki, Tigaon, Gummudhana and Dhavdi Khapa villages opposed the fair and did not allow any person in their village to board the buses going to Pandhurna,” said Anil Sambare, a lecturer at the Government School of Excellence in Pandurna village in Chhindwara.
Authorities on Thursday clamped prohibitory orders in the district for the peaceful conduct of the fair and also banned use of sling to hurl stones.
The local legend goes that the ritual had begun some 300 years ago after a boy of Pandhurna went to Sanwargaon and kidnapped a girl. When he was returning to his village by wading through the river, the Sanwargaon 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.