200 goats sacrificed to celebrate win

July 30, 2008 4:24:14 AM PDT
A lawmaker said he sacrificed more than 200 goats and four buffaloes at a temple in northeastern India to thank a goddess for delivering victory to the prime minister's government last week.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Congress party survived the July 22 confidence vote after weeks of political uncertainty that nearly toppled the government.

The last-minute support of Kishor Samrite's Samajwadi party, a one-time opponent, was key to the victory.

And since Sunday, Samrite has been participating in rituals at the 16th-century Kamakhya temple in Gauhati, the capital of the northeastern state of Assam.

Animal sacrifices are traditional rituals at the hilltop temple, a famous Hindu pilgrimage destination.

The animal sacrifices have sparked controversy, however, as animal rights activists have held street demonstrations near the temple protesting Samrite's prayer ceremonies.

"Animals cannot just be sacrificed for the interest of political leaders," said Sangeeta Goswami, head of the Assam chapter of the activist group, People for Animals.

"It is strange when India talks of progress in science and technology and is clamping down on child marriages, it is allowing such practices as animal sacrifices in temples," she said.

Samrite defended animal sacrifices, calling it "an age-old practice."

"How can anyone interfere with a religious practice inside a temple complex?" he asked.