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In poll times, caste discrimination issue crops-up; 7 villagers booked at Kullu

In poll times, caste discrimination issue crops-up; 7 villagers booked at Kullu

Shimla: In a shocking incident, an issue of bitter caste conflict has once again come to fore at Kullu --- a Himachal Pradesh district, known for its deep-rooted 'deity' culture, which compelled the local police to lodge an FIR against seven villagers, all belonging to upper-caste, on Sunday.

The controversial incident took place at village Dhara in Fozal valley of Kullu where around 50 villagers reportedly did not allow cremation of a Dalit woman, whose body was taken to the local cremation ground for the last rites.

Deputy Commissioner Kullu Yunus confirmed that incident but said it was too early to comment on exact happening.

"The police have registered an FIR under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act following the intervention of Governor Acharya Devvrat. Some affected members of the community, including close relatives, have come forward to lodge a complaint. The police have been told strictly to investigate the case and take appropriate legal action. No one will be shielded," said Deputy Commissioner.

When contacted over phone, Kullu's SP Shalini Agnihotri said Deputy Superintendent of Police, Manali Sher Singh has been appointed as investigating officer. He was in the area for spot verifications and recording statements.

"We will act as par provisions of the Act if the allegations are true. Seven persons have been named in the FIR already," she said.

The reports said an aged woman, approximately 100-yr old, had died and her body was taken to the common cremation ground, which was recently built with the government funding. Some villagers, all belonging to upper caste, reached.

Instead of facilitating the last rites, they raised strong objections against the family's plan to cremate the woman at the cremation ground and threatened about grave consequences if they did not budge.

Deceased woman's grandson Tape Ram uploaded the video of the incident on his what's App and revealed that the family had to shift the body to a nearby nullah to perform the last rites. The video went viral on the social media attracting sharp reaction.

A local Dalit organisation on Sunday approached the Governor and sought his intervention demanding strict action against the accused persons.

State unit of Hindu Jagran Manch on Monday also condemned the incident but added that lodging of the FIR was not a solution. "There is a need for creating awareness among the about the eradication of the deep-rooted caste system and untouchability, which is the sole reason behind such incident in Kullu," said KC Sadyal, President of the unit.

Only last year, another similar incident had come to light at a Government High School, Cheshta when the Dalit students were made to sit separately to watch a live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The telecast was organised at the residence of President of the school management committee.

The fresh incident, happening at the time of the Lok Sabha elections, may lead to fresh furor over the prevalent caste discrimination in the hill state. Kullu has a deity culture, which means that most decisions, including family ceremonies, fairs and festivals, are solemnised at wishes of the local deities, and devtas. That is also a factor for caste discrimination in the communities, who have separate cremations grounds for Dalits and upper castes in the villages.

Ashwani Sharma

Ashwani Sharma

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