Days after he was purportedly seen flashing a gun and causing a ruckus at a Dalit wedding in a video, the brother of Bageshwar Dham’s Dhirendra Shastri has been booked under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Saurabh Garg aka Shaligram, who also allegedly used casteist slurs, is yet to be arrested. He was allegedly angered by the decision of the bride’s family to hold the marriage separately instead of the Bageshwar Dham’s mass marriage event.
The incident took place in the early hours of February 12 at the wedding of Akash Ahirwar and Sita Ahirwar, in Garha village of Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district, where the Bageshwar Dham is situated.
“It was around 12 in the night. People were eating food and the DJ was playing music. Suddenly, Shastri's brother arrived with some men and began quarreling…besides expletives, he also used casteist slurs. He was intoxicated,” said Suresh Kumar, a resident of Aktauhan village who was present at the wedding.
Hariprasad, who was part of the wedding procession, said that Garg was “hurling casteist slurs and saying that the Dalit family didn’t get their daughter married at the mass ceremony. The woman’s family was asked by the dham to conduct the marriage there.”
He allegedly insisted that songs from the Bageshwar Dham be played at the wedding instead of popular numbers. “This made him angry and he started fighting. He stopped the music.”
In an ensuing scuffle, several people were allegedly assaulted and many chairs broken. The video purportedly shows Garg hurling swear words with a gun in his hand as villagers say “leave it, maharaj”.
“We got really scared by this quarrel, so all the baraatis returned the same night. Only the relatives of the groom stayed there,” said Suresh.
“When people talked about complaining to the police, he (Saurabh) said ‘don't complain to the station officer, he won’t do anything… If you want to complain, then do it to the SP’,” said Hariprasad.
However, no one complained to the police. It was only when the video was widely circulated on social media that the police claimed to have launched a probe.
“We have formed a team to investigate after the video surfaced. The team will present its report and action will be taken on its basis,” Chhatarpur district SP Sachin Sharma told Newslaundry.
A case was filed under the SC/ST Act on February 20. The complainant is Bamitha police station SHO Paras Ram Dawar, who said the “arrest is yet to be made” and the “investigation is underway”.
Saurabh Garg could not be reached for comment.
Kamal Awasthi, Bageshwar Dham’s media coordinator, told Newslaundry, “The dham has nothing to say about this. But every matter shouldn’t be linked to Bageshwar Dham. Dham is not responsible for what someone does…police are conducting its investigation. The police will do what needs to be done.”
A few media reports claimed that Dhirendra Shastri had called the woman’s family to Bageshwar Dham to tell them that he would compensate for their loss and they should not initiate action.
Speaking to Newslaundry, the groom's father Asharam said he was unaware of any quarrel. “I was busy with other work when the incident happened, so I don't know who did what. After some time people told me that there was a fight.”
Update at 6.40 pm, March 2: Saurabh Garg, who had been absconding since the incident, surrendered himself to the police in Chhatarpur on Thursday afternoon, along with his accomplice Rajaram Tiwari. They were later produced in court, which granted them bail.