A photograph of a dead body of a priest hanging from a tree is viral on social media. Sudarshan News reporter Gaurav Mishra shared the picture and wrote (archive), “After Meerut, now this priest was killed in Sultanpur because he was offering sawan month puja with pomp and joy. Did peacefuls not like it?” The word “peacefuls” is a derogatory term used for the Muslim community.
[Translated from “मेरठ के बाद अब सुल्तानपुर में इस पुजारी की हत्या इसलिए कर दी गई क्योंकि ये मंदिर परिसर में सावन मास की पूजा घंटा संख बजाकर पूरे विधि विधान के साथ कर रहे थे शांतिदूतों को अच्छा नही लगा?”]
A user named Deeksha Pandey also shared this picture and claimed, “The body of priest Satyendra Anand Saraswati was found hanging from a tree in a temple in Koiripur Sultanpur, UP. Just a day earlier, the priest had an argument with neighbouring “peacefuls” over sawan puja but no one will raise their voice for this priest because he does not adorn a cap but saffron clothes.” This tweet has more than 4,000 retweets.
Uttar Pradesh Congress also shared the image however without the Muslim angle and attacking the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
On July 23, Sudarshan News tweeted a video of the place of crime claiming, “Another dead body of a sadhu found hanging from a tree in UP.” Sultanpur police is also tagged in the tweet which says. “While @PROCell19 is suggesting suicide.”
On July 23, Sultanpur police replied to Sudarshan News’s tweet — “Satendra Nand Saraswati Ji Maharaj age- approximately 25 years, died by suicide after hanging himself from a tree. The body has been sent for postmortem through a panchayatnama by the police. ”
SHO चांदा द्वारा अवगत कराया गया कि ग्राम- छतौना में एक पत्ता बाबा मंदिर पर सतेन्द्रा नन्द सरस्वती जी महाराज उम्र-25वर्ष लगभग ने पेड़ की डाल में अंगौछा से फांसी लगाकर आत्महत्या कर ली ।पुलिस द्वारा पंचायतनामा की कार्यवाही कर शव को पोस्टमार्टम हेतु भेजा गया है।
— Sultanpur Police (@PROCell19) July 23, 2020
We spoke with Additional SP Shiv Raj of Sultanpur who informed, “The investigation of the case is still going on. During the interrogation of villagers, it was learned that Saraswatiji Maharaj had no personal enmity with anyone. There has also not been any reports of any recent clash. The postmortem report says that the reason for death is hanging. The priest lived here alone and occasionally smoked cannabis. His family came after his death and they have not accused anyone. Some media outlets are reporting that one more priest was killed, this is completely wrong. This was murder and not a case of suicide. But the reason for suicide is not clear yet.”
In this way, an attempt was made to give the incident a communal angle. Two different claims were made — the priest was killed and he had an argument with “peacefuls” regarding sawan puja. The police have rejected both claims and clarified that the death was caused by suicide.