Lucknow: The age old injustice of barring lower castes from entering temples has long been banned, but in Uttar Pradesh’s Hamirpur district, it still continues in letter and in spirit. Dalits from Gadaha village in the district have been told not to step outside their homes for 10 days because people belonging to the upper castes are holding a Ramayana Paath at the village temple.
When the dalits tried to attend the prayers, they were not only pushed out but the priest also put up a formal ‘notice’ outside the Ram Janaki Temple, barring their entry. The diktat told dalits they can’t enter the temple because they are “not pure” and should stay inside their houses for ten days till the ‘Akhand Ramayana’ paath is underway.
Although the ‘notice’ was removed after pressure from the district administration, entry of dalits remains prohibited. People from upper castes are guarding the temple premises with sticks and rods to make sure that no dalit dares to enter during the prayer meet.
The move has sparked tension and the district administration has said it will conduct a probe.
Temple priest Kunwar Bahadur Singh admitted he had banned the entry of dalits by placing the sign-board. He said he was forced to do it because they mostly come to the temple “drunk”. “On a plank we had written that those who are not pure by karma and consume meat or alcohol should not come to the temple, because a Ramayana path is going on here,” he said.
Singh said that the temple land was his ancestral property and the practice of stopping the entry of dalits was not a new one. He said he was just following his tradition.
Dalits in the village said that the Ramayana Paath was just an excuse and they are not allowed to enter the temple even on other days. They said they are forced to offer prayers from outside the temple gate.
Raju Sahu, a dalit, said he was beaten and was forced out of the temple when he tried to attend the ongoing path. Another dalit, Neelam, said they are not allowed to participate in any kind of festival or religious function by the upper caste people in the village as they feel it would bring misfortune upon them.
Speaking to ETV News18, deputy district collector Suresh Kumar Mishra assured that proper action will be taken if anyone was found guilty in the case. He said he has sent a team from the revenue department to gather the details. “Proper investigation will be done after investigating the matter. Nobody can stop anyone from entering the temple. It is a crime,” he said.