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Wedding guests killed on fort trip

Lucknow, Jan. 23: Eight members of a marriage party that went visiting the Kalinjar fort in Bundelkhand today were killed when some goons sprayed them with bullets.

The group was driving down from the hill fort in two jeeps after a stopover at the Neelkanth Mahadev temple.

The additional director-general of police (law and order) said the killing appeared to be the handiwork of one of the dacoit gangs infesting the hilly forest area. “We are also looking for other motives,” he said.

Last night, the Chhotey Pundit family, from Mahodhar village of Banda district, had travelled to nearby Panna district in Madhya Pradesh for their son’s marriage. “On their way back, about 24 of the party decided to visit the Kalinjar fort this morning,” commissioner of Chitrakoot Dham V.K. Gupta said. Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh police have launched a joint search operation.

Dacoit gangs led by Pannu and Sattoo Yadav are active in the region. “Twenty days ago, they had kidnapped five persons from near Kalinjar village close to the imposing 7th Century fort,” a Banda district official said.

A picket of the Provincial Armed Constabulary was permanently posted at Kalinjar to prevent dacoit raids. “The PAC men, however, had been sent away for Republic Day celebrations,” a Kalinjar villager said.

The Kalinjar fort and its neighbourhood are a goldmine of antiquities. Some international smuggling syndicates have been operating here for years, even before the fort was declared a national heritage site and sold as a tourist attraction.

There is, however, little policing in the area. Several dacoit gangs have struck in Kalinjar and neighbouring villages over the past two years, the residents said.

According to myth, at Kalinjar, which means the “destroyer of time” in Sanskrit, Lord Shiva had slain the god of time. The hill has been considered holy ever since.

The Neelkanth Mahadev temple was built in the west of the hills by the Chandela rulers in the 7th century.

“Kalinjar has had a bloody history. Hindu rulers of various dynasties as well as Muslim rulers have fought to conquer it. But the fort kept passing from one ruler to another,” historian S.P. Tripathi said.

The British seized the fort from the Chandelas -- who ruled the region the longest -- in 1812 after a long drawn battle and overran it, Tripathi said.

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