Tragedy struck India's capital territory on Monday three times as the kite-flying that characterizes Independence Day celebrations turned deadly.
Every year, thousands of Indians take to their roofs and to the streets to fly kites on Aug. 15. For many, one of the most enjoyable aspects of flying kites is its competitive nature. The object is to make your kite dive at another in such a way that its string cuts the string of the other kite, causing it to fall. Then, usually, a second game ensues for the gaggle of children who have been watching the aerial battle. They scramble to follow the snipped kite as it falls, racing to be the one who can retrieve it for its owner.
In recent years, though, some have taken kite-fighting to a dangerous extreme. Shops that sell kites began stocking glass-laced kite strings to make it easier to cut others' strings. On Monday, three people's throats were unintentionally slit by that kind of string, which is colloquially known as a "Chinese manjha."
Delhi's High Court had asked the city's government to raise awareness about, if not ban, Chinese manjhas before Independence Day, but it appears bureaucratic inefficiency prevented timely action on the matter.
This file tracking note shows that Chinese Manjha file was with Hon LG for 4 days and Sec Env. for 7 days. pic.twitter.com/yjwxlQbOHP
— Manish Sisodia (@msisodia) August 17, 2016
Two of the victims were children, ages 3 and 4. Their names were Saanchi and Harry — a girl and a boy. Both were in cars with their parents, sticking their heads out of the sunroofs, when they got caught in Chinese manjhas that were entangled in trees or wires above the road.
Pictures published in the Indian press show Saanchi's parents' car smeared with blood. Both children were pronounced dead on arrival at hospitals. A 22-year-old who was riding his motorcycle on an overpass died in a similar way.
A petition given to Delhi's High Court earlier this month states that 15 have been killed by Chinese manjhas in the past two years in Delhi and two other North Indian states.
A senior police officer investigating Harry's death told the Hindustan Times, "He could not even shout. He just collapsed on his father’s lap, bleeding from his neck. The father rushed him to the hospital and he was told that the kite string slit his windpipe."
Immediately following the tragedies, the government's inaction swiftly turned into action. Delhi issued an immediate ban on the production, sale and storage of Chinese manjhas and said anyone caught with them could face a five-year jail term and a 100,000-rupee ($1,500) fine.