Indian Rights Activists Blast Baby-Dropping Ritual

Rights activists lashed out at local officials who allowed hundreds of infants to be dropped from the roof of a mosque in western India in the belief that the fall - which ends when the babies are caught in a bedsheet - would ensure good health and prosperity for their families.

The ritual at the Baba Umer Durga, a Muslim shrine, is believed
to have been followed for nearly 700 years, and each year hundreds
of people, both Hindus and Muslims, take part in the ritual.

Local officials told television news stations Friday that there
had been no reports of injuries.

The infants, mostly under two years old, were dangled Thursday
from the roof of the shrine near Sholapur, about 450 kilometers
(280 miles) south of Mumbai, before being dropped about 50 feet (15
meters) onto a bedsheet held aloft by parents and other believers.

Television channels showed the babies screaming as they were
shaken in the air before being dropped.

With high child mortality rates, especially in India's rural
areas, many people resort to rituals which they believe can ensure
their children's health.

Child rights activists expressed outrage after the Headlines
Today television channel showed the babies being dropped.

"This shows the complete failure of the local administration to
prevent this practice and to create awareness about children's
health," said Ranjana Kumari, a civil rights activist in New
Delhi.

"It is also a reflection of the lack of access to health
services, that forces people to behave in this irrational manner,"
Kumari told the AP.

India's National Commission for Protection of Child's Rights
issued a notice Thursday to the local administration in Sholapur
and has begun investigations into the practice.


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