Rajasthan priest set on fire over land dispute, succumbs to injuries

Land which belonged to the Radha Krishna temple trust was given to the head priest to be used for farming to serve as a source of income for the priest

The priest's family has sought an investigation into the incident and also compensation for the death. Representational image: iStock

A priest in Rajasthan’s Karauli district died on Thursday (October 8) due to severe burn injuries after a group of people attacked him over a land dispute.

The priest had around 5.2 acres of land which belonged to the Radha Krishna temple trust in the district. However, the land was given to the head priest to be used for farming to serve as a source of income for the priest.

Generally, lands which belong to temple trusts are handed over to caretaker priests for their use in return for their services where they perform pujas and carry out rituals in temples. Such lands are called ‘Mandir Mafi’.

However, this land in in Rajasthan’s Karauli triggered a dispute, since the village priest, Babu Lal Vaishnav, wanted to build a house for himself on a plot close to his land, which is bordered by a small hillock.

Vaishnav had gotten the land levelled by an earth-mover to start the construction of the house. However, another group of people from the ‘dominant’ Meena community objected to this and claimed the land as their own.

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The dispute was taken to the village elders, who ruled in favour of the priest and allowed the construction of the house.

The priest then went ahead and placed bales of his newly harvested millet on the land as a sign of ownership. However, the members of the Meena community reportedly started building their own hut on the land that the priest had levelled, which led to an argument.

According to NDTV, the priest said six people poured petrol on his bales of bajra (millet) which were placed on the land and set it on fire on Wednesday. He claimed they also poured petrol on him and tried to set him on fire.

The priest, who had severe burn injuries, was rushed to Jaipur’s SMS Hospital where he died on Thursday evening.

The police has recorded the priest’s statement. The priest had named six people in his statement, including Kailash, Shankar, Namo Meena, and three others.

Senior police officer Harji Lal Yadav told NDTV, “The post-mortem is being done right now of the body. We have registered a case of murder and we have also taken the prime accused, Kailsah Meena, into custody.”

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