On Sunday, 5-year-old Ajay was riding along with his parents on his father’s motorcycle on Murasoli Maran flyover in Chennai, when he suddenly started bleeding profusely from the neck. A slender, hardly-visible strand of the manja, the deadly glass-laced thread used to fly kites, had slit his throat in a matter of seconds. Right in front of his parents’ eyes, he bled to death. He was declared brought dead at the hospital later.
After a fight between two police stations’ personnel over which police jurisdiction it falls under, a case was finally registered. But for Ajay and Nirosha, that their son died like that in front of them, remains unbelievable.
The deadly-manja thread is made by crushing glass into powder and sticking it to the thread. The manja thread is not only harmful to humans but birds as well. The deadly-manja thread has been used by kite-flyers for years now. In spite of it being banned, their use continues, and so do deaths and injuries.
In March this year, a 4-year-old Pavithran injured his nose when a manja got entangled on his face and had to later undergo plastic surgery.
In 2014, Kumaravel, a 27-year old of Thiruvottriyur was hospitalized to treat manja cuts on his neck which he suffered as he was riding near Madhavaram Bridge.
In 2012, K Jayakanth, a 33-year-old man from Mandaveli died of the manja accident while has was riding a bike. In November that year , a 59-year-old biker SM Ansari suffered neck injuries due to Manjha on the Mint flyover in Chennai. The same year, a 38-year-old man Gopalakrishnan of Tondiarpet also died after his throat slit with the manja thread.
And in all these years, manja should not even have been used or sold.
In 2007, the city police had banned the use of manja thread and kite flying in public places. But since then, illegal sale of manja has continued in the city. Manja is imported from various cities like Surat, Hyderabad and Bengaluru and is sold illegally in Tondiarpet, Egmore, Waltax Road and Kilpauk in the city, kite-flyers say. In 2009, flying kites was called a non-bailable offence and repeated raids were carried out in shops by the city police.
In August 2012, the Madras High Court upheld the right of an individual to fly kites but prohibited the use of the dangerous threads. This year, the Madras High Court had directed the Secretary of the Home Department and Chennai’s Commissioner of Police to prevent the source of ‘manja’, instead of restricting it in the state.
D Sudhakar, Deputy Commissioner of Police, under whose jurisdiction the death of 5-year-old happened, says that they are planning to raid shops, create awareness in their area and trying to find where the manja sale is being done.
Mahesh Agarwal, General Secretary of Sahayog, a local group that works towards animal protection, told The New Indian Express, “First of all, the sudden appearance of so many kites in the sky scare the birds as they are not used to them. Panic leads them to fly helter-skelter, leading them to get entangled in these wires. The manja can be quite harmful to a bird’s body, so even if it manages to free itself".
According to media reports, a total of 900 birds were injured in the festivities of the three-day kite flying celebration of Makar Sankranti in Jaipur and 100 birds injured in Hyderabad. PETA claims that, in Ahmedabad alone 2000 birds are injured during this festival.