AMRITSAR, India – The Indian chapter of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals staged on Friday a protest in the northern city of Amritsar against the use of sharp kite strings that are fatal for birds, two days before the traditional Lohri festival, which marks the peak kite-flying season in India.
A PETA activist posed as a bird entangled in sharp kite strings and drenched with blood near the gate of Amritsar’s famous Golden Temple monument.
She held up a placard saying “Cut Out Glass-Coated Manja (kite-string), Not Wings.”
“Sharp manja hurts and kills both humans and birds. We urge everyone to say no to manja to ensure that Lohri and Makar Sankranti remain joyous for all, birds included,” PETA India’s Radhika Suryavanshi said in a statement on Thursday.
Lohri or Makar Sankranti, a popular festival in northern India that marks the end of the winter solstice, is celebrated on Jan. 13-14 across India.
During the festival, thousands of people participate in kite-flying competitions, that involve dueling with rival kites.
It is a highly competitive game, which means the strings are coated with powdered and finely crushed glass, metal or other materials to make them sharper and stronger so it is easy to fell rival kites.
However, the manja is hazardous for birds as well as humans and casualties are reported from across the country every year.
In 2018, the forest department rescued more than 4,000 injured birds in just two days of kite flying during the festival, according to PETA.
The nonprofit quoted a bird rescuer in the western city of Ahmedabad who said that 2,000 birds – including pigeons and endangered species, such as vultures – are injured and around 500 of them die every year in the city during the festival.
On Dec. 30, a 22-year-old man died in Ahmedabad after his throat was slashed by a sharp manja while he was riding his motorcycle.
In 2017, the National Green Tribunal – India’s highest environmental court – imposed a ban on the use of synthetic and nylon manja following a PETA petition, although the petitioners had demanded a restriction on all forms of manja.