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Kites (Kites!) Kill 11 In Pakistan Spring Festival

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From the Associated Press:

Pakistani people protest against government and President Pervez Musharraf after an eleven year boy was killed as metal twine cut his throat during a kite flying festival Basant in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007. Kites are becoming lethal as fanatic kite flyers use metal twine or glassdust-coated strings, aim to cut others’ kites.

Kites kill at least 11 in Pakistan

February 26, 2007

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — At least 11 people died and more than 100 people were injured at an annual spring festival in eastern Pakistan celebrated with the flying of thousands of colorful kites, officials said Monday.

The deaths and injuries were caused by stray bullets, sharpened kite-strings, electrocution and people falling off rooftops on Sunday at the conclusion of the two-day Basant festival, said Ruqia Bano, spokeswoman for the emergency services in the city of Lahore.

The festival is regularly marred by casualties caused by sharp kite strings or celebratory gunshots fired into the air. Kite flyers often use strings made of wire or coated with ground glass to try to cross and cut a rival’s string or damage the other kite, often after betting on the outcome.

Authorities temporarily lifted a ban on kite flying that was imposed following a string of deaths at the festival last year. Lahore Mayor Mian Amier Mahmood said the two-day permission to fly kites ended Sunday and that the ban has been re-imposed.

Police arrested more than 700 people for using sharpened kite strings or firing guns, and seized 282 illegally held weapons during this year’s festival, said Aftab Cheema, a senior Lahore police officer.

Five of those who died on Sunday were hit by stray bullets, including a 6-year-school boy who was struck in the head near his home in the city’s Mazang area, Bano said.

A 16-year-old girl and a schoolboy, 12, died after their throats were slashed by metal kite strings in separate incidents. Two people were electrocuted while they tried to recover kites tangled in overhead power cables, Bano said.

A 13-year-old boy fell to his death from the roof of his home as he tried to catch a stray kite, and a 35-year-old woman fell off the roof of her home trying to stop her son from running after a stray kite, Bano said.

Basant — which means yellow in Hindi — symbolizes the yellow mustard flowers that usually blossom in Pakistan at this time of the year.

Bad kites!

This festival (like most in the region) has always been deadly. As the article notes, it was recently banned in Pakistan, where these deaths occurred.

From Wikipedia:

Basant, sometimes called Jashan-e Baharaan (جشن بہاراں, जश्न ए बहारां lit. Spring Festival) or Basant Panchami (بھسنت پھنچمِ, बसंत पंचमी ), is a festival celebrating the arrival of Spring. It is celebrated by people of all religious backgrounds; Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians. Traditionally, celebrants dress in bright yellow or green, and many people fly kites from rooftops. In the city of Lahore, the festival lasts three days. In most other cities, there is only a one-day celebration. The Basant festival heralds the end of winter and arrival of spring. It is celebrated in the entire Indian subcontinent, and particularly in Pakistan, with flying kites – perhaps because spring generally brings a clear sky and just the right amount of wind. For its fans, kite flying is pure fun.

Historically, there have been people injured each year falling off rooftops and being cut by kite strings. While participating in "kite battles," some kite fliers even coat their strings with glass or shards of metal, leading to more injuries. As of 2005, kite flying has been banned in Pakistan. Violent protests have occurred outside the Pakistani Supreme Court house, and further protests are planned. Despite the ban on kite flying one can see hundreds of kites every afternoon and evening on Lahore’s sky and the number of kites is even higher on Sundays and public holidays.

The Basant ban was lifted by the supreme court of Pakistan for 15 days in March but was again enforced late night on 10 March by the chief minister of Punjab, Pervaiz Elahi. On January 4, 2006, the provincial government of Punjab lifted the ban for 24 hours so that kite flying can be enjoyed on the holiday.

And yet the locals still blame the government (and the kites) for these senseless deaths.

To paraphrase our parents, "they wonder why they can’t have nice things."

(Oki posted this in the "missed news" section. But I think it deserves its own thread.)

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, February 26th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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