Rajasthan: Priest burnt alive over land row

A priest succumbed to burn injuries in Karauli district of Rajasthan after he was set on fire by members of a dominant community over a land dispute.

The priest, Babulal, has named five persons in his dying declaration and the police have registered a case of murder; one of them, Kailash Meena, has been arrested. The incident took place just 177 km short of the state’s capital Jaipur.

The 55-year-deceased, Babulal Vaishnav, was the priest of the Radha Krishna temple in Bukna village of Karauli. He owned 13 bighas (5.2 acres) of land which, according to one media account, belonged to the temple; it had been given to the priest for the discharge of such duties as performing puja and other rituals.

He had sown millets on the tract and was levelling a part of the stretch near a hillock, where he aspired to build a house.

Several people from the dominant Meena community objected and claimed the land was their own. The matter came up before the panchayat which ruled in favour of the priest. Miffed at the decision, some members of the Meena community started building a hut on the levelled land, so that they, too, could stake claim.

The priest, in turn, put bales of harvested millets on the land to assert his right.

On Wednesday, six persons came to the land and poured petrol on the priest and set him on fire. He was rushed to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on Thursday evening. Those named in the dying declaration by the priest are Kailash Meena, Shankar Meena, Namo Meena and two others.

SP Karauli Mridul Kachawa said, “The matter is related to a land dispute. The priest has named five persons in his dying declaration and one of them has been arrested. The search is on for the others”

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot issued a statement on the micro blogging site Twitter saying, “Babulal Vaishnav’s murder in Sapotara, Karauli, is condemnable and unfortunate. There is no place for such incidents in a civilized society. The government stands with the aggrieved family in their time of grief. The main accused has been arrested and further action is being taken. The guilty will not be spared.”

There is huge resentment among the Brahmin community over the incident and there have been protests in several parts of the state.

Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje also tweeted about the incident, “The crime graph in Rajasthan continues to grow. The state government should wake up from its slumber and ensure that culprits are punished.”

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