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Politician angers activists with bloody rituals

Many politicians talk from time to time of the need to make sacrifices but few mean it quite so literally as Kishor Samrite.

The Indian legislator has triggered outrage among animal activists after sacrificing hundreds of goats and buffaloes in a series of bloody temple rituals to thank the gods for the government's recent victory in parliament.

As of last night, Mr Samrite had reportedly overseen the sacrifice of at least 317 animals in a famous temple located in India's north-eastern state of Assam. The Kamakya temple near the city of Guwahati is a well-known centre for Hindu Saktism, or worship of the female goddess, and animal sacrifices are commonplace there.

Mr Samrite is a state assembly member for the Samajwadi Party (SP), whose recent decision to side with the coalition government headed by Prime Mnister Manmohan Singh was crucial to it winning a vote of confidence in parliament on 22 July. Reports say Mr Samrite rented a room close to the temple even before the vote was held, claiming he was acting on the orders of senior party members.

Activists say that over the last three days, Mr Samrite has overseen the sacrifice of more than a dozen buffalo and three hundred goats at the 10th Century temple. They have filed a criminal complaint against the politician, written to the leaders of the SP demanding they act and organised demonstrations in Guwahati.

"It's about him thinking that the gods will be pleased and that they will help and that all his wishes will be fulfilled," said Sangeeta Goswami, head of the Assam branch of the campaign group People for Animals. "They are not letting us enter the temple, or the media. If they are on the right side, why will they not let us in? It's very cruel of him."

Anuradha Sawhney, head of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, said they had written to the SP's chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and its general secretary, Amar Singh, saying they had been flooded with phone-calls from people outraged by Mr Samrite's behaviour. The letter added: "We hope that you will consider the enormous influence you have over masses and, in the future, refrain from cruel acts that your followers might be inspired to imitate."

Ms Sawhney said last night that her group had long campaigned against sacrifices being carried out at the temple. "It's absolutely crazy. It has been happening in this temple for some time," she said. "They are just crazy. There is no other explanation for it."

Mr Samrite, who serves as a legislator not in Assam but in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, was last night unavailable for comment. However, in comments to the Indian media he has defended his decision to proceed with the sacrifices. He also confirmed that at least 200 animals had been killed. "The puja (prayer) was offered for the victory of the [coalition] government, the progress of the Samajwadi Party and to see Mulayam Singh Yadav become Prime Minister after the next general election," he told the Calcutta (CRRCT) Telegraph. He added: "[Animal sacrifice is] an age-old practice … How can anyone interfere with a religious practice inside a temple complex?"

This may not be the first time that Mr Samrite, who was once expelled from his party, has been involved in animal sacrifices. One report suggests that when he was first elected as a legislator he held a big feast in his home town of Balaghat at which 108 goats were sacrificed. It is said that the SP's leader's son, Akhilesh, was present at the party.

The Kamakya temple, located on Nilachal Hill on the outskirts of Guwahati, was rebuilt in 1665 after it was destroyed by a former high caste Hindu who had converted to Islam. The temple priest, Ranjeet Sharma, said that Mr Samrite had been performing the Dasamahavidya puja, an offering to ten goddesses of wisdom.