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“They demand we stop worshipping Hindu deities and worship only Babasaheb”, says a Dalit family alleging attack by Bhim Army members in Bihar

“We are BJP voters. They don’t like this. They constantly tell us to join their outfit. They demand we stop worshipping Hindu deities and worship only Babasaheb (Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar),” member of the Dalit family says

A Dalit family in Bihar’s Kishanganj district has accused the local Bhim Army unit of attacking them for their beliefs, desecrating a temple as they object to their reverence for Hindu deities and saffron flags. According to a report by Swarajya, a police case has been filed by both sides (the Bhim Army side and the temple side) in Kashganj police station.

FIRs lodged by Dalit family as well as Bhim Army

The first FIR was filed by a member of the Bhim Army. 27-year-old Deepchand Ravidas, in his statement to the police, said that around 3.30 pm on May 13, a group of men attacked him with a sword near a Shiva temple on Thakurbari road. The statement also says the group attacked his sister too when she came to his rescue. On the basis of his complaint, the Kashganj police booked 8 members, including members of the Dalit family namely, 55-year-old Gyani Ram and three of his four sons — Santosh Ram, Shyam Sundar Ram and Birendra Ram.

On the other side, 28-year-old Santosh Ram in his FIR alleged that on May 13 at around 4:30 pm a group of men entered the Shiva temple (that’s adjoining their house) and tried to desecrate it. The group entered the premises with iron rods, bricks and stones and demanded the temple be removed. They also tried to break the Shivling.

The report by Swarajya says that when Santosh and his family objected, the group attacked them with a motive of murder. The statement read that the Bhim Army group attacked Santosh’s father, brothers and sisters.

Based on this statement, the police booked four named persons and other unidentified persons, under the same IPC sections as in the first FIR.

FIR lodged by Santosh Ram

The incident as narrated by one member of the Dalit family

Birendra Ram, who has been named as accused in the FIR lodged by members of the Bhim Army rejected the charges imposed on him and his family member’s and recalled how he and his family were often mocked by the members of the Bhim Army for their belief in Hindu gods.

“We are BJP voters. They don’t like this. They constantly tell us to join their outfit. They demand we stop worshipping Hindu deities and worship only Babasaheb (Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar),” Birendra says.

Birendra alleged that on May 10 a group entered the temple and told everyone to remove the saffron flag bearing an image of Bajrang Bali installed there. An old animosity culminated into violence recalls Birendra, who’s two brothers, Santosh and Guddu, are recovering in hospital.

Birendra also says that once in the past, during a discussion the local Bhim Army members had insisted that the shivling be broken to show that “I (Birendra) don’t support any false gods. I grew really angry and left the discussion. I said that if that was the condition, I would never support his group again,” he recalls.

Birendra furthers how on Ambedkar’s birthday on April 14, the Bhim Army members had gathered along with several Muslim men in a room adjoining the temple to celebrate Ambedkar’s birthday. “They had brought many Muslim men from outside. We suggested that they should shift the celebrations to the nearby community hall, but they, in turn, abused us and told us to replace the idols in the temple with that of Ambedkar,” Birendra says, adding that “an ugly spat broke out.”

A picture of the celebration on 14 April, as shared by Birendra Ram

“All this has now culminated in violence. We have been thrashed for our religious beliefs,” he says.

What the Police have to say

Commenting on the case, investigating officer Arvind Kumar Yadav told this correspondent over the phone that two persons from each side have been arrested so far.

“You know how it is in such scuffles, both sides give complaints. The truth will come out only in the probe. That is going on,” Yadav said and declined to speak more.

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