For Attempting Puja
By Alok Chamaria
09 October, 2003
A Dalit of Bahera village under the Karam Chat police
station of Kaimur district was killed on Saturday evening when Dalits
of the village tried to offer prayers and prasad to Goddess Durga,
defying the long-standing ban imposed on them by upper caste
The Dalits, including
children and women, were assaulted mercilessly
by the upper caste people. Even the Dalits' cattle were not spared.
Kaimur SP G S Gangwar confirmed the incident.
An FIR against 17
named accused, including three police personnel
posted in other districts of Bihar and Jharkhand, was lodged with the
police station. Additional police force has been deployed in the
village where tension still prevails and the possibility of further
violence in near future cannot be ruled out, said a police officer of
the area. Even 48 hours after the incident, the DM and the SP had not
visited the spot.
Sources said in
the village dominated by upper castes, entry of
Dalits into its lone Shiv temple is banned. Durga
Puja has been organised in the village for the last five years by a
committee in which all castes, including Dalits, have their
The Dalits also
give money for organising the festival. But except
for Dalits, all other castes are allowed to offer puja. When five
Dalits, including Khelaw Ram, son of the deceased Ramlal Ram, reached
near the pandal and tried to offer prayers and prasad on Saturday,
the upper caste people prevented them from doing so.
The Dalits' repeated
requests to allow them to offer prayers irked
the upper caste people who turned violent and started beating them.
The head of Sipahi Ram was hit against a wall and he was thrown on
the ground. When Dalit community elders tried to intervene, the upper
caste people attacked their houses and pelted them with stones, the
daughter-in-law of Ramlal, said the upper caste
people stormed into her house and started beating them severely,
adding that Ramlal was shot dead when Dalits resisted. She alleged
that even minor children were not spared.
An elderly villager
said he had never seen any Dalit offering
prayers in the temple which is situated in front of the deceased's
house in Dalit Tola. Muneshwar Chamar said the idol of Durga is made
by Dalits of the village every year, but they are not allowed to
touch it for offering prayers.
The district administration
gave Rs 10,000 as ex-gratia payment to
the deceased's family and promised to give it a house under the
Indira Awas Yojana.