Boy dies, 70 injured in traditional village “lathi fight” over capturing deities
news Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | October 4, 2014 | 4.21 pm IST An eight-year-old boy died and 70 people injured in traditional village festivities involving a fight over deities in Andhra Pradesh on Friday. The banni ritual held at the Mala Malleswara Swamy temple festival in Devaragattu, Kurnool district, involves a traditional fight between people of several villages. A number of people from around 50 villages in Andhra Pradesh and also Bellary district in Karnataka participate in the temple festival. Select devotees however, engage in a fight, and try to take possession of the deities used, believing that it would bring prosperity to their village if they managed to win any of the idols. The temple is owned and managed by the residents of Neraniki village, who protect these deities. All participants assault each other with sticks. Thirty of the people injured on Friday were admitted to hospitals in Kurnool. Over 1000 policemen had been deployed to disarm the fighters. A few years ago after reports began to appear in the media, the State Human Rights Commission had asked the district administration to see to it that the festival was held without any casualties. This does not appear to have been successful, as police had issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code a day before the event was scheduled to take place. Villagers are opposed to stopping the ritual. They say that it is a holy ritual that was very old. Superintendent of Police, Kurnool district, has said that they are investigating the case and that video footage was being examined. Police also claim that they have managed to reduce the number of injuries, and that the format of organizing the ritual could possibly be changed in future.