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Child killed, scores hurt at Pak kite festival

The festival was celebrated despite a crackdown against kite-fliers that netted more than 1,400 people over three days.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 13:41 IST

A child was killed and about 70 people injured during an annual spring kite-flying festival in eastern Pakistan, police said on Monday, despite a crackdown against kite-fliers that netted more than 1,400 people over three days.

Authorities banned kite-flying during the Basant festival in Lahore and other eastern Punjab provincial cities after seven people were fatally slashed by kite strings reinforced with wire or glass fiber in the days leading up to the event, which culminated on Sunday.

There was only a sprinkling of kites over Lahore on Sunday -- a small fraction of the thousands of kites seen in previous years -- due to the ban, which this city's mayor said helped prevent the multiple deaths normally associated with the festival's main day.

"Last year 19 people died on Basant day. No one has died this year" in Lahore, Mayor Mian Amir Mahmood said.

A 12-year-old boy died on Sunday in the capital, Islamabad, after falling from a roof while flying a kite, said a police officer on condition of anonymity as he was unauthorised to speak to the media.

Some 70 people were also injured, four seriously, by dangerous kite strings, celebratory gun shots and falls from roofs, said Lahore's police chief, Khawaja Khalid Farooq.

Police have arrested at least 1,430 people since Friday, most for flying kites while others were detained for firing celebratory gunshots into the air and playing loud music. They face fines or jail terms of up to six months.

The Basant festival has been celebrated in Lahore for centuries with kite flying and boisterous rooftop parties. Fliers often strengthen kite strings before dueling with opponents in a game that is won when one flier cuts loose another's kite.

Basant means "yellow" in the Hindi language, a reference to the fields of blooming yellow flowers that grace the area as spring approaches. Islamic hard-liners oppose Basant because they consider it as a Hindu festival.

In an earlier crackdown, police arrested more than 1,100 people since March 5 for selling or manufacturing glass and chemical-coated kite string.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 12:37 IST