Regional (M.P & C.G)

50 Hurt as Villagers Breach Gotmar Ban, Target Police

Taking a break from the traditional rivalry between the two villages, residents from Sawargaon and Pandhurhna in Chhindwara district ganged up against and targeted police and administration officials for attempting to enforce a ban on the annual stone pelting ritual.

Some 50 people, including two policemen, are reported to have sustained injuries at the annual Gotmar Mela which took place on Friday, as district officials failed to uphold Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) directives seeking an end to the practice.

The MPHRC direction was spurred by the bloodshed witnessed at the Gotmar last year, which left over 400 wounded and one dead. Taking exception to the centuries old tradition the rights watchdog viewed the festival as “inhuman and criminal”.

Though, a strong police posse was present, on the outskirts of the two villages, to prevent villagers from indulging in the bloodshed. But revelers, bent on continuing the tradition, targeted the police with impunity forcing the administration to give up attempts to enforce the ban.

The Gotmar Mela involves heavy stone pelting between residents of Sawargaon and Pandhurhna villages attempting to seize control of a tree in the middle of a river dividing the two hamlets.

Though the origin of the annual event is suspect, many believe the first Gotmar was triggered by a feud between the families of two young lovers dwelling on either side of the river.

The lovers are believed to have been killed in the stone riot.

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