Monday, December 18, 2006

Casteism rears its ugly head in Orissa temple

From time to time, I wonder about this thing called the caste system, and wonder whether this is something that really exists even now. It seems a bit difficult to believe that in this time and age when people discriminate against other people based on the basis of their birth or what their forefathers did ages ago.

And then we have incidents such as this - the one about having to purify a temple in Orissa because some lower castes / dalits made the temple impure by entering it. Such an incident reminds me of the prevalence of untouchability in villages and how efforts to remove it have not yet suceeded. It is an imperative that we effectively ensure that these outdated and wrong concepts are eradicated. In this day and age, it is a shame that these sort of incidents happen and for every such incident that gets published, one wonders how many such incidents are there that remain hidden.

Here's an extract about what happened.

Priests performed late night purification rituals at an Orissa temple and opened it three days after its closure by upper castes protesting the entry of Dalits, reports said on Sunday. The Dalits had on Thursday entered the temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath, defying an age-old ban on their entry by upper castes. They also performed rituals under police protection following last week's high court ruling that allowed them to do so.

And there is no justification for such a happening. The lower castes (I do not believe in the usage of this term and hence do not want to refer to it without marking it) have wanted to pray at the temple of Lord Jagannath for ages, and finding that their entry was getting blocked, followed the proper method. They filed a case, and the Orissa High Court rightly ruled that any Hindu irrespective of his caste should be able to enter the temple. With police protection, they were allowed to do so.

But once they did this, all hell broke loose. The other higher castes deemed that the temple had become impure and did a dharna and finally got the temple purified. Seems very strange to me, a view of the God should be allowed to all. One wonders what other discrimination the lower castes have to face in their daily lives, but it does not make me happy.

In the midst of all this, the administration does not seem to have done much to retrieve the situation. What they should have done is to have made sure that a ritual such as purification should not have been allowed (it is after all against the spirit of the high court order).

What should now happen is that the lower castes should enter the temple every day as full citizens, and the Government should ensure that no hindrance is there. In addition, every person who acted in a way prejudicial to the high court order should be prosecuted. There can be no other way.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 7:10 AM