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Temple sued for $1 million over alleged branding of 11-year-old boy

NRI PULSE STAFF REPORT

Sugar Land, Texas, April 7, 2024: A lawsuit filed in Fort Bend County against Sri Ashtalakshmi Temple in Sugar Land and its parent organization seeks more than $1 million in damages after a young boy was branded with hot iron rods during a religious ceremony last summer, reports the Houston Public Media.

The lawsuit, filed by Fort Bend County resident Vijay Cheruvu against Sri Ashtalakshmi Temple and its parent organization, Jeeyar Educational Trust (JET) USA, Inc., alleges that Cheruvu’s 11-year-old son was branded during a ceremony that included approximately 100 people.

Cheruvu’s attorney, Brant Stogner, stated that the boy suffered extreme pain and permanent disfigurement as a result of being branded on both shoulders. Moreover, the attorney claimed that the branding led to an infection. Stogner emphasized that the branding occurred without the father’s knowledge or consent and against the boy’s will, highlighting that such actions are illegal in Texas, even with parental consent.

“We want to make sure our community is aware of this and want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody else, anybody else’s child or any child at all,” Stogner expressed regarding the motivation behind the lawsuit.

Efforts to obtain comments from Sri Ashtalakshmi Temple and JET USA were met with limited response. A temple representative, upon being contacted, provided minimal information before ending the call abruptly. Subsequent attempts to reach out via email or voicemail were unsuccessful. Additionally, attorneys for the organizations were not listed in the online court record for the lawsuit filed in Fort Bend County.

Stogner disclosed that, based on preliminary investigation, nearly 100 adults and at least three children underwent branding during the ceremony. The boy’s mother, who was divorced from his father, was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The civil suit accuses Sri Ashtalakshmi Temple and JET USA of negligence, gross negligence, and premises liability while seeking damages for various aspects including pain and suffering, mental anguish, and medical expenses.

Stogner stated that the branding ceremony appears to be uncommon in Hinduism. He stressed that the incident has left the 11-year-old boy traumatized and confused.

Cover photo courtesy: Wikimedia

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