Two persons died and 105 were injured in this year’s Bunni festivities in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh on the night of Dussehra on 30 September, reminding how this “blood spilling sport” goes on unchecked with all political parties and caste groups firmly supporting this religious festivity.
Bunni or a bloodsport, played on the night of Dussehra, involves thousands of men from around 15 nearby villages indulging in rioting with sticks fitted with iron knives and rings at the open fields in Devaragattu. As the stick fight gets intense, dozens of inebriated men join the rioting and throw burning torches in the air, causing severe burn injuries to many.
During the festivities, people fight with each other to retain the idols of Lord Mallikharjuna, a local deity of Shiva. The brass idols of Lord Mallikharjuna and his consort, Parvati, are kept in a temple at Nernaiki village near Devaragattu, and after performing the Dussehra puja at around 7 pm, villagers fight to take them to their village. Several border villages in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have stopped this stick fight since the 1950s due to constant pressure from the cops and advocacy by human rights groups.
This time, around 1,000 cops including 20 sub-inspectors, five inspectors and three DSPs were deployed and six medical teams with equal number of ambulances were kept ready since Sunday morning at Devaragattu. Kurnool SP, Jetty Gopinath said that the police had made every effort to see that there was no bloodshed or death, but couldn’t prevent two deaths as people were adamant: “Everyone knows that the fight is dangerous but they want to continue with the ritual.”