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Nepal’s bloodbath fair claims 3 Indian infants
Published on 26 Nov. 2009 2:11 AM IST
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At least three Indian infants died due to cold in Nepal’s most controversial religious fair, where thousands of animals and birds are being slaughtered by Indians and Nepalis, mostly in the hope of getting a son or wish fulfilment. Nisha Kumari Shah, the one-year-old daughter of Prem Shah who went to attend the Gadhimai Fair in Nepal’s Bara district, died Tuesday after failing to receive adequate treatment at the “health camps” put up at the fair to treat the millions of Hindu devotees who have been swarming to witness the killing of thousands of birds and animals for two days from Tuesday. A four-month-old baby girl, whose parent was identified as Rajesh Prasad, also died due to the cold in the plains as well as a two-month-old boy who could not be identified immediately. All three families came from Narkatiaganj in India’s Bihar state, from where the majority of the pilgrims are, Nepali daily Kantipur reported Wednesday. Before the animal sacrifices began Tuesday, an Indian from Motihari died in the fair after drinking moonshine. Animal rights activist R.B. Bomjan, who had been campaigning in Bara to prevent the slaughter, said the human toll would rise once police collected figures about the road accidents. Thousands of Indians have come to the fair laden on tractors and buses and there have been several accidents, Bomjan said. The fair, held every five years, is driven by Indians from Nepal’s neighbouring states who flock there since animal sacrifices are banned in their own states. Besides Bihar, people come from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and West Bengal. The majority of the pilgrims, especially those offering animal sacrifices, come from low-income households with a high degree of illiteracy and superstition. Violence, especially against women and children, is rampant in the Terai plains of both India and Nepal where brides are burnt to death for not bringing satisfactory dowries and elderly women tortured on the suspicion they are witches casting an evil eye on their neighbours. On Wednesday, when the mass slaughters ended at the altar of Gadhimai, the goddess of power, the office of Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR), jointly launched a television clip highlighting the violence against women alleged to be practising witchcraft. “This is one of the worst forms of violence against women in Nepal,” the UN rights agency said. “A large number of women alleged to be practising witchcraft mostly in the rural Terai, have been ill-treated, tortured, brutally beaten up, and forced to eat human excreta. Deeply-rooted in superstition and entrenched discriminatory practices especially against widows, the violence against women allegedly involved in the practise of witchcraft is a gross human rights violation and a crime punishable under national and international human rights laws.”

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