Karnataka worshippers defy ban, hurl sheep from hills during temple festival

The belief is that sacrificing one sheep by throwing it at the deity’s palanquin will save the rest of the herd from disease.
Karnataka worshippers defy ban, hurl sheep from hills during temple festival
Karnataka worshippers defy ban, hurl sheep from hills during temple festival
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The Yadgir district police in Karnataka arrested three persons on Saturday for violating prohibitory orders on hurling sheep during a temple festival. According to the devotees, the ritual of throwing sheep onto the palanquin during the annual event of Mailaralingeshwar jatra, is practiced in the belief that it will protect the rest of their herd from diseases.

The three-day event that ended on Saturday (Sankranti day), saw as many as four sheep being thrown off from the hills on to the chariot, despite prohibitory orders issued by Deputy Commissioner Khushboo Goel Chowdhary.

The three men who were arrested and booked under Section 11 D of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, were later let off on bail.

“There were enough security arrangements in place to prevent devotees from resorting to the practice. We had set up six check posts in the premises with the help of the revenue and health department and seized sheep that the devotees brought for sacrificing. However, the three people who managed to violate the order had brought the sheep from a different entry point,” the Yadgir Superintendent of Police, Vinayak V Patil, told TNM.

The practice was banned in 2013 during the tenure of Gurmeet Tej Menon as the Deputy Commissioner. Though the practice was prevented to a large extent, it was never completely stopped. But unlike last year, where the police was unable to trace two defaulters who managed to throw their sheep from the hill and get away in the crowd, the police had stepped up their vigil and set up drone cameras to identify the defaulters.

According to Dr C Rajasekhar, Deputy Director of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services, the officials seized 1060 lambs and sheep from the six check posts set up in the temple premises.

"Considering that we were not able to nab the defaulters last year, this is an achievement for us. We prevented the practice from happening at least 99% and ensured that the defaulters were booked. Prior to it being prohibited, nearly 3000 sheep used to be sacrificed in a day. For the past four years, we have been seizing the sheep and they are put up for auction. The proceeds are given to the temple," Dr Rajasekhar said.

Sharath Lal, Animal Welfare Officer at People for Animals (PFA), Bengaluru, observed that the cases charged against the defaulters were not adequate. He said that many cases of animal cruelty being linked to religion/ superstition makes it difficult to address the matter. He pointed out that in many cases, police-religious entity nexus makes it difficult for cases of animal sacrifice to be addressed.

"Compared to other states, Karnataka now sees more such cases. It should be noted that all this is happening despite a special rule for the state already in place. Karnataka Prevention of Animal Sacrifice Act 1959 and prevention of cruelty to animals (slaughterhouse rules) 2001 should be slapped on the defaulters in this case. The penalty is not strong enough to deter them from repeating it," Sharath Lal said.  

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