A woman priest has postponed a controversial “purification” ritual she had proposed at Bisada village in Uttar Pradesh, the epicentre of the intolerance storm after a mob lynched a Muslim man on suspicion of cow slaughter there in September.
The 35-year-old Sadhvi Harsidhi Giri, a graduate in law and physical education, had stoked a controversy with an announcement that she will “purify” the communally-sensitive village on the outskirts of Delhi by sprinkling cow urine and Ganga water across its length and breadth on Monday.
“The village needs purification because peace here has been disturbed after (Mohammad) Ikhlaq was killed. Purification process will inspire villagers to make a new beginning. It will help them stay away from negative thinking,” said the new priest of Bisada’s Shiv temple.
But following pressure from authorities and a lack of enthusiasm from villagers, she put the ritual on hold.
“Police threatened legal action against me if I performed the ritual inside the temple or within the village. I am ready to go to jail for Ram, cow and following my religion,” said Giri, who was earlier a priest at a temple near ITO in Delhi.
“The purification ritual will take place come what may if villagers support me.”
Most villagers, particularly women, didn’t approve the priest’s proposal as it could bring more trouble to the village already grappling with a series of arrests and legal cases following the lynching of Ikhlaq on the night of September 28.
A posse of policemen along with a fire engine was stationed in the village to prevent any flare-up. “We will not let the Sadhvi or any other person to disturb peace in the village,” said Rajesh Yadav, the additional district magistrate of Gautam Budh Nagar.
Anxiety returned to Bisada, which was slowly returning to normality, after Ikhlaq’s daughter Sahista and son Danish on November 26 gave a magistrate half-a-dozen fresh names of suspects from the village allegedly involved in the crime.
“Police is now putting pressure on us to hand over the six boys or face legal action. Those boys are named now are in fresh trouble,” village headman Sanjay Rana said.
The villagers were upset with priest Giri, who was reportedly a disciple of the Juna Akhara sect of sadhus, because after her statements have brought the media glare back on Bisada. “I have asked Sadhvi Giri to quietly perform her temple duties and desist from issuing provocative statements,” said Rajendra Singh, a villager.
Giri took charge as priest of the temple 13 days ago after her predecessor quit in the wake of Ikhlaq’s murder.
She allegedly stayed for four days at the Shiva temple from where a call was given on the loudspeaker to assemble at Ikhlaq’s house on September 28. Later, Giri was shifted to another temple located outside the village.
“Women forced the Sadhvi to leave the Shiv temple because they did not want the media to focus on the village again,” a police officer said.
Ikhlaq’s home and that of his brother are locked while the bylane in which these are located remain deserted, as if curfew has been clamped. “They come only when they need to take out things from the house. We do not have any problem if Ikhlaq’s family returns to his home. It is their home, their village they should come back,” said Uma Devi, a neighbour.
People were trying to forget the violent past. “We are sad because our village is known for all the wrong reasons today. The whole incident was unfortunate. We want to erase that from our memory,” said Samay Singh, a retired teacher and Bisada native.