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Dalit Men Enter Kerala Temple That Had Denied Entry to Oppressed Castes

The group entered the Jadadhari Boothasthanam temple, which, until now, had kept its doors firmly closed to Dalits.

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Dalit Men Enter Kerala Temple That Had Denied Entry to Oppressed Castes
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In a historic event against caste oppression in Kerala, a group of Dalit men entered a temple in Enmakaje panchayat in Kasaragod district on Sunday, 14 November.

The group stepped into the Jadadhari Boothasthanam temple, which, until now, had kept its doors firmly closed against oppressed castes.

Five of the men are part of the Pattikajathi Kshemasamithi (Scheduled Caste Welfare Council) in the panchayat, while the sixth man, Advocate Chandramohan, is a Local Committee Secretary of the CPI(M) in Enmakaje. However, the men were not able to pray at the sanctum sanctorum as it has been closed since 2018.

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Breaking Centuries-Old Rule, Group of Dalit Men Enter Temple

They entered the temple at 3 pm on Sunday, breaking a centuries-old rule that had banned Dalits from worshipping at the temple. In 2018, another Dalit man, Krishna Mohana, entered the temple and prayed at the sanctum sanctorum, resulting in the closure of the sanctum sanctorum to all by the families that run it.

On Sunday, Pattika Jathi Kshema Samithi Kasaragod District Secretary BM Pradeep, President MK Panicker, Joint Secretary Chandran Kokkal, Kumbala Area Secretary Sadananda and Mahesh, local secretary of the Students Federation of India, the students’ wing of the CPI(M), entered the temple.

The men, however, couldn’t pray as the sanctum sanctorum was closed after Krishna Mohana entered in 2018. “The temple is run by five Brahmin families. It never opened its doors to people of oppressed castes. It was the same in the past as our ancestors have said,” BM Pradeep told TNM.

Theyyam, in which an oracle is worshipped as a deity, is the main attraction of the temple festival, similar to other temples in Kerala’s north region. But in the Theyyam festival, Dalits are not allowed access.

Further discrimination against oppressed castes have been rampant as well.

While dominant caste persons have access to the main road near the temple, Dalits are made to travel through a separate narrow walkway. While Dalits are made to stand in an asbestos-roofed shed to watch Theyyam, Thiyyas (belonging to the Other Backward community) can stand in a shed roofed with tiles. Both communities aren't allowed to watch Theyyam with the Brahmin families.
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Younger Generation of Dalits Join Together to Fight the Discrimination

“The older generation of Dalits didn’t find the discrimination questionable. The younger generation, those in the 50s and 40s, want to challenge it. Dalits are mostly daily wage labourers and they sometimes lack the courage. They were made to believe they would attract God's wrath if they entered the temple. Poor people are afraid and don’t dare to attract the anger of God. It was barbaric, right? God sees all people as human beings and doesn't discriminate against anyone,” MK Panikcer told TNM.

Panicker noted that OBC persons were previously allowed to worship at the temple.

On Sunday, Deshabhimani, the Malayalam mouthpiece of the CPI(M), carried a detailed article on discrimination.

“Reading that, we felt that something should be done soon. We didn’t want any kind of violence. We did it peacefully. There had been no effective action so far, though some people wanted to bring about change. Now young people are more active in this cause,” Panicker added.

The men entered through a gate on the west side of the temple as the main gate was closed after 2018. The temple festival has also not been conducted ever since Krishna Mohana’s attempt to break the barrier.

“During the festival, food would be served to dominant caste people first. Oppressed class people are allowed to eat only after the others finish. Dalits are made to wait somewhere far away for their turn. A sound is made to alert oppressed class people of their turn. They are not allowed to eat even within the temple surroundings. They should take the food and go back to their homes or somewhere far from the temple,” Pradeep explained.

However, Pradeep said that one of the Brahmin families has been in favour of the Dalits entering the temple, through a consensus. The Kshema Samithi is also keen to reach a solution by talking to the stakeholders. “We want brotherhood to prevail," Panciker added.

(Published in arrangement with The News Minute)

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Topics:  Kerala   Dalits   Caste Discrimination 

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