The patwari of Village Bookna in Rajasthan where a priest was burnt alive has been suspended. Following the incident that occurred in the village about 4 km from the Sapotra tehsil headquarters of District Karauli, the priest succumbed to his burn injuries in the night of 8 October at the Sawai Mansingh Hospital in Jaipur.
The SHO of the area is under the scanner for his alleged complicity in the crime and/or negligence in discharging his duty.
The body of the priest was cremated today. However, the victim’s family and the villagers were determined not to perform the last rites until their demands were met.
Meanwhile, several BJP politicians, including MPs and MLAs, headed to Village Bookna. The state government has offered a compensation of Rs 10 lakh, a contractual job to a member of the family and a house to the next of kin of the victim under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
Killers of priest now face Section 302
Karauli Superintendent of Police Mridul Kachhwa said, “In the dying declaration, Babulal Vaishnav has accused five people of dousing the priest with petrol and setting him afire. In the police station of Sapotra, a case was registered under Section 307 of the IPC. Following the death of the priest, the section will change to 302.”
The SP said, “We will make the charge sheet under Section 302, mentioning five accused. We have arrested the main accused Kailash Meena. We are trying to arrest the remaining accused.”
The officer said that the root cause of the incident is a land dispute. Neither of the two sides had but reported any dispute to the police in the past. This incident happened “at the spur of the moment”, police sources added.
In his dying declaration before the police, Babu Lal Vaishnav had said, “My family worships the Radha Gopal Ji temple in Village Bookna. Our family does farming on 15 bighas (1 bi = 1,337.81 m2) of land in the name of the temple. Kailash Meena and his family wanted to usurp this place. “
“On 8 October, at around 10 in the morning, Kailash Meena came with his family and began making a hut. When I challenged them, a dispute ensued and they set the filter on fire, in which I was seriously injured,” the statement read.
Suresh Vaishnav from the family of the victim said, “This is the land of the temple. Seven generations of our family have been looking after it. Our brother Sahab Babulal Vaishnav had levelled the ground to make cow feed. Even as Vaishnav kept storing fodder here, Kailash Meena was trying to occupy the land.”
Suresh says, “Kailash Meena set fire to the fodder after spraying petrol on it. By the time the villagers reached, the cow feed was almost completely burnt. The villagers first took my brother to Sapotra Hospital from where he was referred to Gangapur and finally Jaipur. He died during treatment.”
The father of six daughters and one mentally unstable son, the priest of the temple, Babulal Vaishnav, was the main breadwinner of the house. The five girls are now all married but a son and a daughter are not yet settled. The victim’s widow is a housewife.
Union minister likens Ashok Gehlot to Mamata Banerjee
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has tweeted, “The murder of Babulal Vaishnav ji in Sapotra is extremely unfortunate and malicious, such acts have no place in a civilised society. The state government is with the bereaved family in this sad time. The prime accused of the incident has been arrested and action is on. The culprits will not be spared.”
Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia tweeted, “No matter how much we condemn and grieve the case of burning the priest of the temple alive to death in Sapotra of District Karauli, it won’t be enough.”
Union Water Resources Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat tweeted, “Burning the priest of a temple alive in Karauli shows the condition of law-and-order in Rajasthan. Ashok (Gehlot) ji wants to turn Rajasthan into another Bengal. He has handed over the state to jihadis. Or will he pass on the blame to Modi ji or Yogi ji like their uncrowned king?”
Social organisations, youth and politicians on social media have demanded strict action against the culprits. People are demanding compensation and security for the family.
Ghanshyam Vaishnav, a resident of Village Bookna, says, “The priest Babulal Vaishnav had donated his cultivated land to the temple, which is recorded in the temple logs. In the meeting of residents from 100 houses of the village held four to five days ago, the panchayat heads had hailed the priest.”
Demonstration held at Sawai Mansingh Hospital
Several social organisations demonstrated last morning after receiving information about the death of priest Babulal during treatment at Sawai Mansingh Hospital in Jaipur.
Vipin Sharma, the youth president of the All India Brahmin Mahasabha, says that the killers of the priest should be severely punished and the victim’s family given a compensation of Rs 50 lakh.
The activists handed a memorandum to the administration in District Karauli, demanding punishment for all the culprits.
The body of priest Babulal was brought by ambulance to Bookna at around 5 PM last evening. The relatives of the deceased immersed the ashes this morning.
The family members of the accused have been absconding, the police are on a lookout for them.
‘Won’t perform rites until demands met’
The body of the priest Babu Lal Vaishnav reached his house in the evening. But the family members refused to perform the last rites until the administration accepted their demands.
Suresh Vaishnav, from the family of the priest, said, “We will not perform the last rites unless the administration accepts our demand. No matter how many days we have to keep the body.”
Suresh demands Rs 50 lakh compensation, a government job for a member of the family and security for their kin.
Sapotra SDM Omprakash Meena had told yesterday, “According to Hindu rituals, cremation does not take place after sunset. The family will perform the last rites in the morning. Whatever is demanded, we will consider it in the morning.”
The SDM said, “We went to meet the family during the day. They did not place any clear demand other than the arrest of the culprits and financial support. But, so far, there has been no demand in writing.”