Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Rajiv Saizal, who is a Dalit, on Tuesday told the state assembly that he and a legislator were not allowed to enter a temple in the state.
Saizal was speaking while participating in a discussion on a bill that extends reservation for SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies by another 10 years.
The state Assembly in its special one-day session ratified by a unanimous voice vote The Constitution (126th) Amendment Bill.
It had already been passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on December 10 and 12, respectively. Later, the bill was sent to states for ratification as it requires the consent of at least 50 per cent of state assemblies before implementation.
Saizal said that he and Nachan MLA Vinod Kumar were not allowed to enter a temple. He, however, did not mention the name of the temple, its location and the time when they were not allowed inside.
Earlier, Congress MLA from Kinnaur Jagat Singh Negi said that Dalits were not allowed to enter temples in some places in the state.
The minister said he agreed with the Congress MLAs who had stated that Dalits are not allowed inside some temples.
Saizal, 47, who is an MLA from Kasauli (SC) Assembly segment in Solan district, said that the society as a whole was required to take steps to end this discrimination.
The minister praised Sikh gurus for starting the langar system in an attempt to end the caste system and said that Mahatma Gandhi had praised the RSS for its endeavours to bring equality among various classes of society.
Congress MLA Sukhvinder Sukhu said if the minister was not allowed to enter the temple, he was provided protection under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 that was formulated by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
To this, Saizal said that he wanted to shine light on the reality outside and it should be taken in that sense only.
He said that even former Dalit ministers from the Congress would have been denied entry into some temples during the previous Congress regimes.
Replying to the discussion on the ratification motion, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said Saizal spoke very well on the issue.
Thakur admitted that discrimination against Dalits existed in some parts of the state and members of the community were still served food in separate queues.
A lot of positive changes have taken place but more are required for bringing in equality, he said.
The chief minister said that all members of the House supported the bill and there was no need to discuss the issues pertaining to history.
"If the Congress legislators say their party has done a lot for Dalits, they should also admit that Pakistan was also created by the Congress," he said.
Referring to Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri, Thakur said he was not against a discussion on the issue but presumed that all the members will be in favour of the ratification which is why he fixed the meeting at 2 pm.
Reacting to Congress MLA Asha Kumari, Thakur admitted that some discrimination against Dalits existed not only in Chamba but in some other parts of the state as well.
Earlier, the chief minister moved the motion for ratification of the bill after it was tabled by assembly secretary Yash Paul Sharma.
While presenting the motion, Thakur said that the Constitution provides reservation for members of SC/ST communities in Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies of states.
"The provision was included for 70 years since the enactment of the Constitution on January 26, 1950, hence, it was scheduled to expire on January 25, 2020. The bill seeks to extend the reservation till January 25, 2030," he added.
The leader of opposition supported the ratification motion but raised questions on the governor's brief address.
Supporting the bill, lone CPI(M) MLA Rakesh Singha said the country failed to provide justice to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the last 70 years, which was why it was required to extend reservation for them in Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
Chintpurni BJP MLA Balbir Singh said the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was initially against reservation.
However, Congress MLA Ram Lal Thakur raised objection to the remarks and said previous Congress governments had done a lot for the upliftment of SC/STs.
Congress legislator Asha Kumari pointed out that Punjab and Haryana Assemblies are holding three-day sessions for ratification of the bill and called for the Himachal Assembly's special session to be extended to discuss the bill in detail.
Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda, MLAs Harshwardhan Chauhan, Hans Raj, Rakesh Pathania, Jagat Singh Negi and Nand Lal also spoke in support of the bill's ratification.
Earlier, the special session started with Governor Bandaru Dattatreya's address at 11 am. In his brief address, he said, "Since this session has been summoned for a particular purpose, therefore, I will not be going into much detail."
The governor said he will discuss the achievements of the government in detail in his address scheduled for the ensuing budget session.
The House also passed a condolence resolution to express grief over the demise of its former member Ninju Ram, who had breathed his last in December. Ram was elected MLA from Rampur on a Janata Party ticket in 1977.