31 injured in Gotmar festival
August 18, 2012 10:21:00 PM
Bhopal: About 300 persons were injured in the century-old annual traditional Gotmar festival in which stones are pelted, in Pandhurna tehsil of Chhindwara district on Monday. Ten of the seriously injured have been admitted to the district hospital. The festival known as 'Gotmar' is celebrated in memory of a lover couple. Heavy police force remained deployed at the site. The administration officials claimed most of the people who get injured in the stone pelting, again return to the ground after getting first-aid. Chhindwara Collector Mahesh Chandra Choudhary told that the administration had deputed medical vans at different spots and till evening, it was reported that 280 persons have been provided medical aid. “The activity ended peacefully at around 6.15 pm. There were only a few who were hospitalized, but they too are not serious,” he added.
Choudhary claimed that last year, the number of injured was over 600, but it reduced this year due to special efforts made by the administration. A cultural activity was also organized there with the help of peace committees and the interest of the villagers got diverted, he added.
Over 10,000 people from both the villages were present at the site. Since, prohibitory orders were imposed in advance on the use of ‘Gofan’ (cane with fire at one end), this weapon was not used. Men from the Pandhurna and Sawargaon villages situated on the opposite banks of the river Jaam in Chhindwara district pelt stones on each other during the festival observed the day after Amawasya. Several youths from Maharashtra also participated in the festival.
Despite several persons being injured in the annual festival, the authorities have failed to stop this convention to stop the violence. In the year 2009, the State Human Rights Commission had recommended to ban this bloody activity. Following this, efforts were also made in past years to bring the villagers to logic and put the rubber balls for pelting on the villagers, but the villagers did not agree. Meeting of the panchayats have been convened several times, but to no avail.
Surprisingly, the villagers also decline medical treatment after getting injured and move to the temple and put bhabhut (apply sacred ash) on the injuries. The administrative officials have to make efforts to take them to the hospital. Though there are many stories behind the origin of the festival, one has been accepted by everyone. According to the story, a youth of Pandura village was trying to elope with his lover from Savargaon on Amavasya night when the villagers of both the hamlets started throwing stones at each other resulting in the death of the lovers. The fair is held every year in their memory.
Some of the injured every year lose their eyesight, limbs and even their lives. In 1989, when four men were killed, the administration had announced some restrictions, but to no avail. Last year too, the villagers had agreed not to pelt stones, but later the traditional festival was celebrated traditionally. At the end of the day, most of the participants go to the temple of Goddess Chandi to offer prayers. They believe that the Goddess blesses them and makes their wounds heal quickly.