'Desecration' of Religious Symbol Sparks Outrage in Chhattisgarh, SC Satnami Community’s Demand for Action Escalates into Violent Confrontation

Fueled by anger over the vandalism of ‘Jaitkham’, demonstrators vented their fury by setting fire to vehicles, including two fire tenders, and ransacking property. There are allegations of police collusion with the perpetrators.
A five-member forensic team from Raipur reached Baloda Bazar and commenced the investigation of the incident.
A five-member forensic team from Raipur reached Baloda Bazar and commenced the investigation of the incident.Photo: Nav Pradesh

New Delhi: In a tumultuous display of discontent, thousands of members from the Scheduled Caste Satnami community wreaked havoc on the collectorate building in Chhattisgarh’s Baloda Bazar district on June 10. Their agitation stemmed from alleged desecration of their religious site on May 15-16, prompting clashes with law enforcement officials and widespread destruction.

The demonstrators, fueled by anger over the purported vandalism of ‘Jaitkham’ (a revered symbol of the Satnami sect), vented their fury by setting fire to vehicles, including two fire tenders, and ransacking property. Allegations of police collusion with the perpetrators spurred demands for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), intensifying the protest outside the collector’s office.

Troublemakers reportedly damaged the ‘Jaitkham’ near the holy Amar Gufa of Giroudhpuri Dham on the intervening night of May 15-16. The incident led to the arrest of three persons.

As tensions escalated, clashes erupted between protesters and police, with barricades breached and scuffles ensuing. Disturbing images began surfacing, revealing the extent of the chaos, with the collectorate building charred and vehicles destroyed amidst the sea of white-clad demonstrators chanting slogans.

The ‘Jaitkham’, also known as the Victory Pillar, holds profound significance for the Satnami community, symbolizing their spiritual heritage and resilience. Located at the Amar Gufa, it serves as a sacred site for worship and religious gatherings, embodying the community’s identity and history. The desecration of this revered symbol was perceived as a direct affront to their beliefs and traditions.

Superintendent of Police Sadanand Kumar, amidst the unrest, highlighted the community’s initial call for peaceful protest, which deteriorated into violence and stone-throwing directed at security forces.

Despite government assurances of an inquiry into their grievances, the protest spiraled into destructive chaos, trapping hundreds of employees within the collectorate premises.

The protest originated from the desecration of the ‘Jaitkham’ on May 15-16 in Girodhpuri town of Baloda Bazar district, prompting demands for justice and accountability. While the arrests were made in connection to the incident, allegations of police complicity fueled the community’s outrage, culminating in the demand for a judicial inquiry, endorsed by Home Minister Vijay Sharma and Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai.

Who are Satnamis?

The Satnami community is also referred to as the Satnami sect or the Sadhan sect. Historians have sometimes mentioned it as Mundia and Bairagi because its followers often used to shave their heads. This sect is in fact a wing of the Ravidassia community.

The Satnami community was founded on April 21, 1657 by Bir Bhan of Narnaul district. Udhodas, a disciple of Saint Ravidas, was the first priest or spiritual guru of the society. The community comprises farmers, artisans and people from backward castes. The sect emphasises on three principles — adorn the attire of a Satnami devotee, earn money through proper means and do not tolerate any injustice or oppression in any form.

The community reveres Mini Mata — the first female Member of Parliament from Chhattisgarh. She first entered the Lok Sabha by winning the 1955 by-election. Invoking her, political parties appeal to Satnamis for votes. It is influential in the Bastar and Surguja regions of Chhattisgarh.

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