Boy killed, 70 injured in Andhra temple ritual on Dussehra

Devotees indulge in mock fight with sticks to mark Bunny ritual at the Devaragattu festival on Dussehra Dinesh Akula

dinesh-akula

Dinesh Akula | October 4, 2014




Kurnool: Around the time 33 people were killed in a Dussehra stampede in Patna on Friday, an eight-year-old boy was killed and as many as 70 devotees hurt in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Only the latter was a mock fight “Bunny” ritual at Devaragattu temple festival in which devotees indulge in mock fight with sticks to mark the festival.

The injuries were reported despite deployment of over 1,000 policemen to disarm the revelers, of whom 30 were admitted to hospitals in Kurnool after the event.

It has been a long tradition at the Mala Malleswara Swamy temple at Devaragattu, 10 km from Aluru in Kurnool district, in which every year several participants are left with bleeding injuries. The festival, which coincides with Dussehra, attracts a large gathering of devotees from over 50 villages in Andhra Pradesh and from Bellary district in Karnataka. The temple is owned and managed by the residents of Neraniki village.

However, devotees from neighbouring villages who take part in the celebrations try to hijack the processional deities to their village believing that it will bring good tidings if they are able to snatch the deities.

Armed with sticks, the ‘warriors’ from Neraniki put up a stiff resistance to protect the deities, resulting in an open clash. Those who suffer bleeding injuries get turmeric powder applied before leaving the place.

After the media began highlighting the violent tradition a few years ago, the state human rights commission directed the Kurnool district administration to take all steps to prevent bloodshed during the revelry and at the same time avoid hurting the sentiments of the public.

Despite police making all arrangements and also sensitising the villagers about the bloodshed and how to avoid it without hurting the sentiments, but all has proved in vain.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC banning any gathering of four or more people, has been imposed in three mandals of Kurnool a day before the event  in view of the mock fight (Banni) at Devaragattu temple festival, police said.

Around 1,000 police personnel were deployed at different locations and section 144 was clamped in three mandals, including Aluru and Holagunda, in Kurnool, deputy superintendent of police of Adoni sub-division, Shiv Ram Reddy, said. But this also didn't prevent from the mishap at the event.

Venkatapathy Shastri, a villager from Neraniki who is participating in the ritual since five years said it is not easy to do away with the rituals. “It is very holy and religious, so we cannot stop it, said Shastri, and added that this has been going on since ages.

Another villager, Phani Bhusan agrees that participating in the ritual is holy and their villages are blessed. He got 16 stitches on his head in the 2011 ritual. He could not participate this year, but is eager to do so next year.

Police officials say they have succeeded in reducing the number of injuries and in the coming years the format could be changed. It is very important that awareness is created. During the ritual, scores of people receive head injuries. A few deaths also occurred in the past few years, but it did not deter devotees from taking part in the ritual. Kurnool SP Ravi Krishna said the police were looking at the video coverage and appropriate action would be taken after the probe.

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