42 injured in Banni festival in AP

Scenes from the Banni festival. DH PHOTO

At least 42 people who participated in the traditional stick fight festival of Banni in Devaragattu of Kurnool district were injured and another four suffered burn injures on Friday night.

The Banni festival of Sri Mala Malleswara Swamy temple ended in bloodshed despite several warnings by the district police.

In the decades-old tradition, thousands of men from ten villages, including Neraniki, Neraniki thanda and Kothapet, converge in Devaragattu on the night of Vijayadasami to participate in a mock fight trying to snatch the idol of Sri Mala Malleswara Swamy and Parvathi Devi from the other group.

The fight with long sticks with metal ring tips on top of a 800 feet-high hillock left several injured.

"We have been warning people not to resort to violence and been telling them that it is only symbolic. There were no deaths and we are happy that our month-long awareness campaign has yielded results," a senior police officer said.

Villagers, who refused to do away with the violence despite warnings from the State Human Rights Commission and the Lokayukta, beat up their opponents and attacked rival groups with flaming torches.

The Kurnool police have posted heavy bandobust at Devaragattu with four DSPs, 17 circle inspectors, 61 sub inspectors and 1,300 constables.

In all, 100 CCTV cameras and a few drones were also pressed into service to keep a tab on violent mobs.

As per the tradition, villagers run down the hillock carrying idols, while stick-holders surge ahead with the belief that people of the village prosper if they manage to stop its movement for some time. When someone is hurt, sandal paste is smeared on the would and the fight continues.

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42 injured in Banni festival in AP

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