Orissa Dalits Gain Puri Temple Access
BY: STAFF CORRESPONDENT
Jan 29, KENDRAPARA, ORISSA (HPI) After weeks of discord and strife that had threatened civil order, the dispute over Dalits' rights to have darshan (view of the Deity) at the Jagannath temple in Keredagada was finally settled today with the lower caste Hindus marching their way to the 300-year-old shrine.
"We are happy to know that people have buried the caste-based practices and peace and harmony have returned to Keredagada," Kendrapara collector Mr. Kashinath Sahu said. "It is a victory of law over tradition.
We appreciate the gesture of upper caste Hindus for their tolerant attitude. The upper caste sabarnas no more hold the view that the darshan by the Dalits would desecrate the temple," said senior revenue officers who had rushed to Keredagada early morning today.
The Dalits' entry into the temple on 13 December had sparked off noisy protest among the upper caste. After two days of sit-in by the sabarnas in front of the temple, the administration had brokered peace among the warring caste factions. As per the bilateral agreement reached out, the nine in-built holes (only through which the Dalits were previously able to see the Deity) on the outer wall of the temple were to be demolished.
The Dalits, who had launched Mandir Pravesh movement, agreed to the mutual consensus and deferred the darshan till the new entrance gate replaced the "demolished" outer wall. Since wee hours today, Dalits, including women and children, made their way to the temple and offered puja at the newly-built wooden barrier near the sanctum sanctorum. The sabarnas also offered puja.
With the caste Hindus, who had maintained a belligerent stand, finally agreeing to let the Dalits in for puja, the local administration has heaved a sigh of relief. "We are relieved. We hope the peace-loving and law-abiding people from the region would pay due regard to the High Court verdict on unrestricted temple entry rights of all Hindus," said Sahu. "Accompanied by the superintendent of police, I had visited the temple today to ensure that order is maintained. I was overwhelmed by the prevailing peace and amity among the people," he said.
The police deployment, which had been intensified in the region since the caste-bound conflict erupted in the region would, remain in force for few days more as a precautionary measure. It will be withdrawn very shortly, Sahu added.
There was a sharp divide on caste line in this part of the state after the Dalits broke the age-old social barriers and entered the local 300-year-old temple on 14 December. The inordinate delay in rebuilding a new entrance to the temple had invited the wrath of the public and a section of Dalits threatened to embrace other "tolerant" religion, specifically Buddhism.