RSS to train and appoint Dalits as priests in Hindu temples - 2006

NEW DELHI: Following up on its radical call last year to train and appoint Dalits as priests in Hindu temples, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has severely condemned the barring of Dalits from a temple in Orissa recently. 

An year-end editorial in the Sangh mouthpiece Panchjanya termed as unfortunate the discriminatory attitude of temple authorities at the Jagannath temple in Kerdagarh saying it was "shameful that even in 2006 there are temples where Dalits are disallowed ... Even God will desert the temple that Dalits cannot enter." 

The sanctum sanctorum of the temple was closed in mid-December with upper caste Hindus refusing to perform puja after three groups of Dalits, armed with a High Court order, entered the premises. 

The entry of the Dalits into the temple put an end to a 250-year-old ban, but the upper caste Hindus immediately closed the temple down saying it had been "desecrated". The imbroglio was later resolved by religious leaders, but deep-rooted resentment on both sides continues to simmer. 

The editorial further states that after the intervention of several senior religious leaders, Dalits have been allowed to enter the Kerdagarh temple. However, there are two paths leading up to the area from where devotees offer prayers - one for the "so-called upper castes" and one for Dalits. This, it says, is wrong and has to be amended forthwith. "There should be one path for all Hindus." 

The RSS has castigated what it repeatedly calls the "so-called uppers castes" for their discriminatory ways saying they are in fact of the "lowest levels" for doing so. "Those who are against allowing Dalits inside temples are against the Hindu Samaj", it states emphatically. "There should be no Hindu temple which discriminates against people on the basis of caste." 

Further, it says, "those Dalits who are being provoked to change their views through such incidents have to be assured that crores of Hindus are with them. 

It has also come down strongly on leaders of the "Hindu Samaj" for allowing situations which political opportunists can exploit. "The moment this controversy happened, political vultures started fuelling it ... Upholders of the Hindu Samaj have to ensure they allow no incident to occur that can be used by political opportunists. Nor should there be occasion for such an issue going to court." --a direct comment on the fact that Dalits had to approach the High Court for an order to enter the temple. 

Orissa temples have for long been embroiled in controversies arising out of incidents of caste or communal discrimination. The Jagannath temple in Puri famously turned away the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for being married to a non-Hindu. She had to view the temple from a building across the road.