Sacrifices despite widespread objections

- Chahana Sigdel, Gadhimai (Bara)
Sacrifices despite widespread objections

Nov 28, 2014-

Five minutes before buffaloes began to be slaughtered at the Gadhimai fair, five-year-old Bir Bahadur’s mother Ajay Kumari rushed with him into the slaughter field and asked him to kneel, fold his hands and pray in front of one of the larger buffaloes.

During the previous Gadhimai Fair in 2009, Ajay Kumari, who was childless, came to the temple and promised to sacrifice a buffalo if she were blessed with one. “Just a few months later, I was pregnant with my first child,” said his mother. “So I came here to thank the goddess.”

According to the authorities, around 5,000 buffaloes—mostly calves, brought by devotees from India and Nepal to appease Goddess Gadhimai—were slaughtered on the twelfth day of the fair at Bariyapur, on Friday.

“The number of devotees has increased but that of the buffaloes slaughtered is less than last time,” said Prem Prasad Shah, a member of the post-sacrifice management committee. “Last time around 7,500 buffaloes were slaughtered and this time there were a couple of thousands less.”

The Indian Supreme Court passed an interim order last month, asking the Indian states bordering Nepal to restrict the outflow of animals.

According to Gauri Maulekhi, Indian rights activist who had filed the petition, a number of buffaloes were confiscated at the Nepal-India border by the Armed Border Forces. While they were yet to get an official count of the animals confiscated, she estimated it to be 10,000.

Besides buffaloes, thousands of animals such as hens, pigeons and goats were sacrificed by the devotees themselves on and around the fair premises. The sacrifice of the smaller animals will continue on Saturday, according to authorities, who said no more buffaloes will be slaughtered.

The ritual, which is believed to be the largest animal sacrifice in the world, has drawn criticism from activists at home and abroad. Indian and Nepali activists who inspected the sacrifice said while they were happy that the number had fallen from the last time the fanfare and the celebration as the butchers charged into field was extremely disturbing.

A few hours before the sacrifices began, Swami Agnivesh, president of the World Council of Arya Samaj, arrived at the temple where he staged a fast. After a few hours he was escorted to a temporary security camp. “You see children as young as five pulling little calves into the field. Just think of what we are teaching children and the impact this has on them,” said Swami Aginvesh.

Thousands of men, women and children gathered to watch over 400 butchers, who were lined up around the field as the pre-sacrificial ritual began at 2am. “I get this strange kind of energy when I am on the slaughter field. I don’t feel remorse—not at all. I just feel lucky that I am pleasing the Goddess, It’s a part of our culture,” said 38-year-old Yadav Kumar, one of the butchers who has participated in three previous slaughters.

The slaughter of buffaloes began six hours later at around 8am as the butchers marched into the field. The heads of the animals will be buried in a pit next to the ritual area while the remaining carcasses were to be collected and transported to the district headquarters Kalaiya from where the bones, meat and skin would be sold to factories.

However, according to committee member Shah, the ‘contract’ has been cancelled and the buffaloes would be buried in the pit. The month-long festival is expected to see a drop in devotees after the sacrifices end on Saturday.

Two die at fair

BARA: Two persons—a child and an elderly—died at the Gadhimai festival here at Bariyapur in the district on Friday. The one-year-old daughter of Maka Tiwari, a resident of Chhapra Baniyapur in India, reportedly died of cold. The child lost consciousness on her mother’s lap. She was pronounced dead at a health camp later. Pan Kumari Devi, 65, of Sitamadi in India died as she was trapped amongst the crowd, police said. The families received the bodies after an initial police probe. (PR)

Published: 29-11-2014 09:34

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