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Ram rallies leave 1200 hurt

Extended Ramnavami celebrations, involving over 150,000 diehard sword-brandishing devotees, choked every major thoroughfare in Hazaribagh town from early morning till late evening on Thursday.

The two-day festival, which officially ended on Wednesday, paralysed routine life, as markets remained closed, roads teemed with revellers and power supply was withdrawn to facilitate passage of 100-odd towering jhanki (tableaux on trucks) processions.

The sharp-edged weapon stunts, pulled off by akhara members and integral to the festivities, left over 1,200 faithful ó most of them curious onlookers ó injured. Voluntary organisations, which had set up roadside kiosks from Jhanda Chowk and Boddom Bazaar Chowk, offered first aid.

Hazaribagh Sadar Hospital confirmed primary treatment of over 700 people. Two had to be referred to Ranchi with grievous sword wounds.

Anticipating the sea of faithful and keeping in mind communal flare-ups in the past, the administration made tight security bandobast.

Several companies of paramilitary forces were pressed into service, with bike squads patrolling sensitive pockets. Closed-circuit television cameras kept strict vigil on various procession routes.

Deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar confirmed that there were no untoward incidents, but said two akharas had been marked for making political jhankis in violation of the model code. He added that power supply would resume later in the night.

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