Thursday, October 09, 2003

Dalit killed for praying to Durga

By Amarnath Tewary in Patna

Thursday, 09 October, 2003

The caste-conscious society of Bihar has once again taken the life of a Dalit over the question of offering puja and prasad to goddess Durga.

According to reports reaching the State capital, Ramlal Ram of Bahera village under the Karam Chat police station of Sasaram's Kaimur district was allegedly killed by upper caste villagers on Saturday evening when he along with some of his caste men tried to offer prayers to goddess Durga.

The upper caste villagers had banned Dalits of the village from offering puja to the deity.

An FIR has been lodged against 17 upper caste villagers, including three police personnel posted outside the district in this connection. The district Superintendent of Police, G S Gangawar has confirmed the incident.

Though, the district administration has deployed additional forces in the village, the situation has become volatile and any further incident of retaliatory violence could not be ruled out.

According to reports, the Dalits of the Bahera village are barred from entering the lone Shiva temple of the village and Durga puja has been organised in the village for the last five years with the same ban in place.

Significantly, in the upper caste dominated village the Dalits have been making their representation to the Puja committee for the last five years. Besides donating money for organising the village Durga puja, the Dalits have been making the idols for a long time.

But ironically, except these Dalits, all other castes of the village are allowed to offer Puja to goddess Durga.

When Ramlal Ram along with his son Khelaw Ram and five others reached the puja pandal and tried to offer puja on Saturday evening, upper caste villagers were furious and started beating them mercilessly.

Later, when the Dalit elders tried to intervene into the scuffle, their houses were attacked by the upper caste villagers with stones and sticks. Even children, women and cattle were not spared by the violent upper caste mob.

"The upper caste villagers stormed our house and started beating us mercilessly and later shot my father-in-law Ramlal Ram from close range when he resisted their beating," Kaushalya Devi said.

The Bahera village dalits said that they have never been allowed to offer puja in the village temple by the upper caste villagers. "Its an age old phenomena and we had come to live with the terms but unfortunately Ramlal Ram was killed while defying it," some of the Dalit villagers of Bahera have said.

The district administration, meanwhile, has announced Rs 10,000 as an ex-gratia payment to the family of Ramlal Ram and also a house under the Indira Awas Yojna.

Source: Sify news, October 9, 2003

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