At least six minor girls were allegedly stripped and paraded naked in a drought-hit village in central India as a part of a ritual locals said was held to “please the rain gods.”
The incident took place in Baniya village of central Madhya Pradesh state, where local believe that the practice will summon rain and bring respite from a drought-like situation.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), India’s apex child rights authority, has demanded a report from the Damoh district administration, where the village is located.
Superintendent of police of Damoh DR Teniwar told news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) that police are investigating the incident and will initiate action if their probe finds “that girls were forced to go naked.”
The villagers follow this practice every year, with consent from the children, Mr Teniwar was quoted as saying by India Today.
The outlet reported that the girls were made to walk around naked carrying heavy pestles on their shoulders and visited door-to-door asking for flour, pulses and other cereals. As per the ritual, these items are then donated to a community kitchen that is set up near the temple.
Videos that surfaced on social media reportedly showed the girls carrying wooden shaft on their shoulders with a frog tied to it and women saying that they “believe this will bring in rains.”
District collector S Krishna Chaitnya added that the parents of the girls were also involved in the ritual and that none of the locals have so far lodged a complaint in the incident.
"In such cases, the administration can only make the villagers aware about the futility of such superstition and make them understand that such practices don’t yield desired results," he told PTI.
Madhya Pradesh is no stranger to bizarre “rituals.” In 2018, two frogs were ceremoniously “married” off in the hope that it would bring rain to the region. The event was attended by Lalita Yadav, the then minister of state for women and child development.
Wedding of two frogs organized as part of a ritual held in Chhattarpur to 'please rain gods'. Madhya Pradesh Minister Lalita Yadav who was also present says' We have prayed to god for rain in drought hit Bundelkhand region and for the welfare of our farmers' (22.6.18) pic.twitter.com/q2qxz7taZi
— ANI (@ANI) June 24, 2018
Earlier in 2017, the state witnessed a gay marriage, which is otherwise not legal in the country, as a symbolic gesture to “appease the rain gods.”