Young police officer Anjali Udenia took off her belt and boots and sat down to perform the job.
A villager claimed no priest was ready to visit their “puja pandal” as they are Dalits.
Ms Udenia, in khaki instead of the regulation saffron or white worn by priests, gamely performed the ritual “Ghat Sthapna” in the village which is 55 km from Damoh district headquarters.
Villagers claimed they set up their Durga idol only after consulting the village priest. “But then, nobody came to perform the rituals,” said Kripal, one of the oraganisers.
Another villager, Naresh, said, “We kept requesting but nobody came… that’s why we called up the police.”
A priest claimed he and three other priests in the village could not come because they were preoccupied.
“They did not come to call first, we are four pandits and we went to four villages. Later they complained and took us to the police station. We never refused them – the only issue was that we had several invitations on that day,” said Pandit Ramesh Chaube.
When the police officer started chanting the mantras, a priest arrived belatedly and joined in. But the cop made it a point to complete what she started.
Later, Ms Udenia downplayed the caste discrimination allegation of the villagers. “There was no priest available for the puja at Kota village. In between, a priest also came there, but as we can’t leave the puja midway through, he chanted mantras and I completed the rituals, they already had other engagements,” she said.