Indian voters 'forced to dip hands in boiling oil'

  • @AndrewBuncombe

Police in the Indian state of Gujarat have launched an inquiry after it was allegedly that up to 100 voters were forced to dip their hands in boiling oil to ‘prove their loyalty’ to a defeated local official.

Officers in a rural part of the state stepped in to arrest the official, who lost the election, and his campaign manager, after dozens of people reported suffering serious injuries after being forced to take part in the loyalty test.

Indian media said police had arrested Dinesh Parmar and his campaign manager, Amrut Laxman Parmar, following village and district elections that were held on Tuesday. Mr Parmar was defeated in the contest, but it seems he could not accept the result.

 “Amrut Parmar called us to the village temple and asked us to dip our hands in boiling oil to prove that we had voted for Dinesh Parmar,” one voter, Gopal Parmar, told The Hindu newspaper. “Since we had voted for him, we had no problem, and we put our hands in the oil but we were hurt.”

He claimed his mother had died from a heart attack after being obliged to put her hands in the oil. Police reportedly denied this claim, though said there had been a ‘natural death’ in the village that night.

The elections that are held across India for for local councils, or panchayats, are generally supposed to be select independent candidates, even though the influence of political parties is seldom far away. In this case, it has been reported that Mr Parmar was linked with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Nationally, the BJP is the main opposition party, but it controls the provincial government in the western state of Gujarat, where the chief minister Narendra Modi is widely tipped to be the party’s prime ministerial candidate in general elections due to be held in 2014. Last night, the BJP in Gujarat failed to respond to queries.

Police have said that around 25 people were injured in the incident and required medical treatment, but locals said the total involved was closer to 100. The so-called loyalty test took place in the Sabarkantha district, located around 25 miles from the industrial and business hub of Ahmedabad.