Over 80 people in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu face jail for burying their own children alive in a gruesome religious ritual…
The accused parents and villagers are due in court after police swooped on them taking part in a Hindu rite, near the town of Rajapalayam, around 500 kilometres south from the Tamil Nadu state capital Chennai, on 11 April.
In the ceremony – called ‘Kuzhimattru’ which means ‘changing pits’ in the south Indian language Tamil – followers take a vow to bury their firstborn if the Gods bless them with a child.
Twenty-eight fully-conscious children, all under one year of age, were buried for around two minutes in pits two-feet deep and part-covered with tin sheeting, as part of a 400-year-old tradition to please the goddesses Muthukuzhi Mariamman and Kaliamman, before being exhumed.
The mass burials, which happen every three to seven years in accordance with the position of the stars, are carried out in Hindu temples while a priest performs ceremonies.
Devotees believe the children will be protected from serious illnesses.
The charges come in the latest clampdown by Tamil Nadu authorities to stop the archaic practice.
Mr Mohammed Aslam, district magistrate for the Rajapalayam district, said even though none of the children were killed, the authorities would not tolerate the ritual.
“We had told them [the parents] very clearly before the ritual. We warned them that this should not be done,” he added. “Around 80 people have been charged. The case has been registered. The process of making them appear in court will take a few weeks.”
Tamil Nadu housing minister Mr Dorairaj, was sacked from his post for attending a similar ritual three years ago.
Tamil Nadu law bans the ceremony under its 2002 Prohibition of Ritual and Practice of Burying Alive of a Person Act.
People found guilty can be jailed for up to three years or fined 5,000 rupees.