Political war over Rajasthan priest murder, as Congress says 'no comparison with Hathras'

Rajasthan CM Gehlot condemned the BJP's 'attempt to give a communal colour'

Karauli rep ani Representational image | Twitter handle of ANI

The death of a priest in Karauli, Rajasthan, after a feud with "landgrabbers" resulted in him being set on fire, is now ammunition for a fresh political feud between the BJP and the Congress. The priest, Babu Lal Vaishnav, was attacked on Wednesday and died a day later. It is alleged that five people, who were trying to occupy cultivated land near the temple, set him ablaze after spraying petrol. On October 6, a day before the incident, the panchayat had agreed the land dispute in favour of the priest. The priest was cremated on Saturday after his family relented following assurance from the administration on their demands.

The Rajasthan police has arrested accused Dilkhush alias Dillu and Kailash Meena.

The BJP hit out at the Congress, saying law and order in the state has "gone for a toss" and asked Rahul Gandhi to pay attention to it instead of visiting BJP-ruled states for "political tourism". In UP, the Yogi Adityanath government is fighting severe criticism for its handling of the Hathras case, particularly after the local police cremated the woman's body at night, allegedly without the family's approval.

A three-member committee constituted by BJP also reached the spot. BJP leader Kapil Mishra met the family members of the victim at Bukana village and offered them Rs 25 lakh as assistance collected from the public. Mishra, who has been mired in a controversy over his speeches made in the days before the Northeast Delhi riots in February, consoled the family members of priest Babu Lal Vaishnav and promised them all possible help.

"It is a very painful incident, and I feel that no one should see such kind of suffering," Mishra told the reporters after meeting the priest's family. He said Rs 25 lakh would be transferred to the account of the priest's kin. "We will not only give financial help to the family but have also given a promise to hold their hand and make them stand on their feet again so that they can move forward," the former AAP MLA said.

Congress says 'no comparison to Hathras'

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot condemned the BJP's "attempt to give a communal colour" to a land dispute between two families, which led to the death of the priest. "It is condemnable that the BJP gave a communal colour to the tragic incident between the Meena and Vaishnav communities of a land dispute case between two families. This has undermined the image of Rajasthan unnecessarily," Gehlot said in a statement. He said the priest's death was not the result of a caste conflict, neither a pre-planned incident. The dispute between the two families over taking the possession of a piece of land resulted in the tragic incident.

The Congress on Sunday said those making comparisons between the incidents in Hathras and Karauli were doing so for "vested political interests"; while justice was not done in Uttar Pradesh, prompt action was taken in Rajasthan, he said. 

Asked about the two incidents at a press conference, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: "Let me be very clear that to compare, as is being done by innuendo and insinuation by vested political interests, Karauli and Hathras, is to make a mockery of justice."

"Every murder, and it is the highest crime in our penal book, is despicable, dastardly and must be condemned, be it Hathras and be it Karauli. But that is not the point. Did you have a midnight cremation in Karauli? Answer is No'. Did you have it in UP? Answer is Yes'."

"Did you prevent access to all political leaders and all journalists for five days, with shoving and pushing and abuse? It did not happen in Rajasthan. But, it happened in UP," Singhvi said.

He urged everyone to make a distinction between the two incidents, asserting that justice was done in Rajasthan with prompt action. "One is justice, one is injustice. So before you make comparisons, search your soul and don't think the people of India are fools," Singhvi said. 

-Inputs from PTI

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