It is the memory of the cow, allegedly killed by Mohammad Akhlaq in September this year, that troubles the villagers of Bishahra to this day. To atone for the “cow slaughter” through an expression of collective regret, the residents of the village in Dadri will undertake a “purification” of the village by sprinkling gau mutra (cow urine) all over.

The villagers believe that a cow was indeed killed by Akhlaq even though prima facie there was no evidence to back their claims. The first veterinary doctor’s report had declared that the meat seized from Akhlaq’s house by the police on the fateful night was mutton. Most of the villagers, however, allege the connivance of the local administration in hiding the “fact” of cow slaughter.

The ‘shuddhikaran’ ceremony will be performed by Sadhvi Harshita Giri, the new priest of the temple which was allegedly used by BJP leader Sanjay Rana’s son Vishal Rana to announce and spread rumours about the alleged cow slaughter by Akhlaq, leading to his public lynching. “Not many want to say it in the open but the fact is that the skin of a cow was found by a mob which led to the angry crowd beating him. We remember a small calf which used to roam around the village but was not seen anywhere after that day,” said Om Kumar who stays a few houses from the temple. His two sons are accused in Akhlakq’s murder case and are in jail.

“Everybody is talking about Akhlaq’s death. No outsider who visits the village, wants to talk about the cow’s killing. Now that ten persons are in jail, will you also talk about the cow which was slaughtered?” asked an agitated Kumar, an electrician with a shop next to the temple.

While talking to people on the streets and in their homes in Bishahra, one can feel the sense of injustice of the villagers as the subtext in their narrative. The media has been ignoring the “cow slaughter” and reporting a “completely one-sided story” is the popular complaint. Villagers think that the arrest of ten persons and the fact that many others are on the run has vitiated the atmosphere in the village.

Kumar strongly feels that the purification ceremony is “necessary” to atone for the villagers’ failure to prevent the “cow slaughter.” “Till the time it is not done, the shadow of trouble and bad luck won’t leave us,” he added.

Sanjay Rana, whose son Vishal and five other relatives are accused in Akhlak’s murder case, told The Hindu that the purification was proposed after the “unfortunate” incident in the village.