When the results were declared on Tuesday, Dinesh Parmar, who had contested for the post of sarpanch of Deria village in Bayad taluka of the district, lost.
By Wednesday, the police had identified at least 31 people from the community who were forced to do this ritual to prove their loyalty and thus burnt their hands.
The number is likely to increase further as there were about 150 people, including women, who were reportedly victimised by a belief that their hands would go unhurt if they were telling the truth that they had voted for Parmar.
Two held for forcing Sabarkantha villagers to dip hands in hot oil his associate Amrut Parmar, and booked them for criminal intimidation, causing grievous hurt and inducing person to believe that he or she will be rendered an object of the divine displeasure, among other sections of the Indian Penal Code.
According to police, soon after the results of gram panchayat elections were declared, Parmar called a meeting of his community members (Thakore) at a temple of Bhathiji Maharaj, popular among this community located in the middle of the village.
By the time nearly 150 people reached there, oil in a frying pan was already bubbling. Soon, people were asked to dip their hands in the oil to prove their “loyalty” to Parmar, who allegedly claimed that hands of those who voted for him will go unhurt while the “betrayers” would feel the heat.
On Tuesday evening, 20 people who could not bear the pain visited the primary health centre and later approached the police. One of the victims, Parvin Parmar, lodged an FIR at the Ambaliyara police station.
Bayad block health officer Dr Dharmendra Parmar said that around two dozen patients were brought from Ambaliyara public health centre at night and another 15 were brought on Wednesday. “Six of them have suffered major burns and some of them have been referred to nearby hospitals,” he said.
Sub-inspector G J Raol, who is probing the incident, said, “Dinesh and Amrut Parmar are community leaders and have a terror among its members. There is no criminal case against them but we have come to know that they are involved in some petty offences related to land deals. Despite forcing people to dip their hands in the boiling oil, the victims didn’t approach the police initially out of fear.”
Deria village has about 1,000 households, mostly dominated by the Thakore community. Sabarkantha Superintendent of Police Chirag Koradia said police teams were visiting each household in search of victims.
Although village panchayat elections are not fought on party symbols, the BJP claimed Parmar was a Congressman. Bayad Congress MLA Mahendra Vaghela, who is son of Congress Legislature Party Leader Shankersinh Vaghela, who was camping in the village, said people followed Parmar out of fear.
Sabarkantha district Congress president Dahyabhai Patel said Parmar was not backed by the Congress. Winning candidate Melaji Juvanji Parmar is a BJP man whose wife also happens to be a BJP member of Bayad taluka panchayat.
BJP members took out a rally to Bayad mamlatdar office and submitted a memorandum seeking suitable action. “It is the handiwork of local Congressmen and their losing candidate,” said Bayad taluka BJP unit general secretary Bipinbhai Patel.