Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Sunday directed officials to hand over the inquiry into the killing of a temple priest in Karauli district to the crime branch of the Criminal Investigation Department, reported PTI.
In a statement, the chief minister also condemned the Bharatiya Janata Party for giving the incident a “communal colour”, which he said, was because of a land dispute between two families. “This has undermined the image of Rajasthan unnecessarily,” Gehlot said.
He said that the priest’s death was neither the result of caste conflict nor a pre-planned incident, and added that the dispute between the two families to take possession of a piece of land led to the killing.
Gehlot added that the Congress government in the state has worked to protect priests and the land that comes under various temples.
On October 7, five men had allegedly set a priest on fire as they wanted to encroach on the temple land owned by the priest, identified as Babu Lal Vaishnav. The police have detained two people and three others have been named in the first information report.
The family of the deceased had refused to perform the last rites of Vaishnav till their demands were met. The family had demanded Rs 50 lakh as compensation and a government job. Besides this, the family also demanded the immediate arrest of all the accused. They alleged the village police and the patwari, government official who keeps records regarding the ownership of land, were supporting the accused and demanded action against them. The last rites were performed on October 10 after Sub-Divisional Magistrate Om Prakash Meena visited the family.
The deceased priest owned about 5.2 acres of land which belonged to the Radha Krishna temple trust in the village. However, the land was given to the head priest to till.
Vaishnav wanted to build a house for himself on a plot close to this land. In order to start construction, he had the land levelled by an earth-mover. A group of people from the dominant Meena community objected to this and took the matter to the village council. The village elders ruled in favour of the priest, a day before the killing.
Vaishnav then placed bales of his newly harvested millet on the land as a sign of his ownership. But the accused began to build their own hut on the land, which led to an altercation. The priest said in his dying declaration that the accused poured petrol on his bales of millet and set them afire. He alleged that they also poured petrol on him and set him on fire. Vaishnav was taken to SMS Hospital in Jaipur, where he succumbed to his injuries.