Bengal: Dalit Rationalist Beaten Up for Comments on Hindu Deities, Rituals

New Delhi: A professor and rationalist from the Dalit community suffered severe injuries on Saturday after he was beaten up by a group of “suspected Sangh parivar” activists at Mandirbazar in South 24-Parganas, allegedly for his comments on Hindu deities and rituals.

According to The Telegraph, Sudhakar Sardar – who is attached to the education department at Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose College in Calcutta – was “punched and kicked” by at least eight men who barged into an open-air cultural event in Mandirbazar. The report says the 53-year-old was “dragged to a nearby temple” where he was beaten up again. He suffered severe injuries to the head, chest and abdomen as a result of the assault, a hospital said.

Sardar wrote a Facebook post last month in which he made some comments on Lord Krishna and his Gopinis. He also said that Shraddho ceremonies (funeral rituals) should not become an excuse for people to display their wealth.

A case has been registered by the Mandirbazar against eight people based on a complaint filed by Ramprasad Halder, who is a member of the Dalit rationalist organisation Manusher Pashey. According to The Telegraph, the police said the accused – who are Sangh parivar activists – have gone into hiding and have not been arrested.

The assault occurred around 8 pm on Sunday, a little after a recitation competition had ended at the event organised by Manusher Pashey, according to the newspaper. Nobody intervened to stop the assault because they feared the attackers’ reputation as “rowdies”.

Sardar was first taken to the Naiyerhat primary health centre and was then referred to the state-run Diamond Harbour Super-Specialty Hospital. “The patient suffered multiple injuries on his head, chest and abdomen. We have advised several examinations including a CT scan and X-ray…. His condition is stable,” a hospital source told The Telegraph.

Sardar told the newspaper that it appears he was attacked for his “rationalistic observations” about Hindu rituals. “Some RSS activists had threatened me earlier, but I was never afraid,” he said. He added that a Facebook post on Lord Krishna, which he posted on Janmashtami in mid-August, had angered Hindu right groups. “I realised the post had hurt people and eventually removed it,” he told The Telegraph.

His comments on Shraddho ceremonies, Sardar said, came from a belief that they are conducted as a mark of respect to the departed soul and should not become a reason to avoid the “unnecessary display” of wealth.

Praddyut Baidya, the president of the BJP’s Mathurapur unit – under which Mandirbazar falls, said his party does not support such attacks. “Everyone has the freedom to express their opinions. But one must be careful not to hurt the emotions or faith of others,” he said.

This article was first published on The Wire.