BJP-leaning candidate held for testing voters’ loyalty

To prove that they had voted for a candidate who lost the gram panchayat elections, 100 people were allegedly forced by him and his campaign manager to put their hands in boiling oil in north Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district on Tuesday night.

Though the gram panchayat elections were not fought on party symbols, the candidate, Dinesh Parmar of Deria village in Bayad taluk, 40 km from Ahmedabad, is believed to have leanings towards the BJP.

District Superintendent of Police Chirag Koradiya said: “Over 25 persons dipped their hands in boiling oil to prove to the lost candidate that they had indeed voted for him and were treated by a team of the Health Department on Wednesday.”

Local sources, however, told The Hindu that more than 100 people were forced to do so.

The candidate’s campaign manager, Amrut Laxman Parmar, allegedly tried to get the entire village into this act, saying their hands would not be burnt if they had voted for Dinesh Parmar.

Dinesh and Amrut Parmar were arrested on Wednesday.

“Amrut Parmar called us to the village temple and asked us to dip our hands in boiling oil to prove that we had voted for Dinesh Parmar,” said Gopal Parmar. “Since we had voted for him, we had no problem, and we put our hands in the oil but we were hurt.”

He claimed that his mother Panchhi Parmar died of heart attack after undergoing the test. But Mr. Koradiya denied it. “There was a natural death in the village on Tuesday night, but this is not connected to the incident; we would have otherwise charged them with murder.”

Chief Minister Narendra Modi has praised the police for the prompt action and said an investigation was on.

Mahendrasinh Vaghela, son of Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela, visited the area on Wednesday and berated Dinesh Parmar.

Social scientist Achyut Yagnik said such incidents recurred in rural areas, while the killing of women thought to be witches was a more regular phenomenon.

Manishi Jani, a member of the Rationalists Association, pointed to a recent incident reported from south Gujarat, in which an old woman and her daughter were forced to dip their hands in boiling oil to prove that they were innocent of a theft. “Most such cases… are a sequel to cases of thefts.”

“The killing of women for their property after they are declared witches is quite common in the tribal areas of central and parts of south Gujarat. At least three cases are reported every year,” he says.