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Man assaulted for touching palanquin carrying deity’s statue

‘Upper caste’ owner of statue also made Dalit man hand over a goat as a fine, which he said was for ‘purifying’ the deity

Gulf News

New Delhi: A man from the marginalised Dalit community was assaulted in Himachal Pradesh (HP) for touching the palanquin used to carry the statue of a deity belonging to an “upper caste” individual.

A native of Nandi village of Mandi district Jalpu Ram was returning from his daughter’s house when he saw the palanquin for the statue of the deity “Gugga Devta” in the courtyard of one Tilak Raj.

He bowed down in front of the palanquin, in a ritual practised by followers seeking blessings.

He also touched the palanquin in reverence.

After Raj saw this, he assaulted Ram for “blasphemy” and hurled casteist slurs at him.

He also made Ram hand over a goat as a fine, which he said was for “purifying” the deity.

“I was returning from my daughter’s home, and was headed towards my sister’s house when I saw Gugga Devta resting at a house. I went near it and tried to take the blessings,” Ram told media. “However, I was beaten up and the upper caste people hurled casteist slurs at me. I was asked to give a goat as fine. They threatened to chop me into pieces if I did not pay the fine.”

The incident took place on September 3 but came to light on Tuesday.

Local police have registered a case under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

“Jalpu Ram approached us alleging untouchability. A case has been registered under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 343 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the SC/ST Atrocities Act. The matter is being investigated,” Mandi Deputy Superintendant of Police (DSP) Hitesh Lakhanpal told media.

Last Saturday, prominent Dalit activist Kedar Singh Jindan of Sirmaur district of HP was murdered in broad daylight.

A High Court (HC) advocate Jindan was first beaten up by sticks and then run over by a vehicle.

Hundreds of people staged a protest with Jindan’s body on Saturday. The protesters, who walked towards the residence of Chief Minister (CM) Jai Ram Thakur, demanded a probe by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

They also demanded immediate arrest of the accused and security for the family members of Jindan.

According to eyewitnesses, five persons attacked Jindan in his office with iron rods and later ran him over.

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