PURI: The chairman of the National Commission for Schedule Castes was denied entry at a temple in Puri. PL Punia, who is a Dalit himself, was allowed entry just till the compound, but found the main temple doors shut.
The Congress MP has said that he will take up the matter.
It seemed more like a police raid than a temple worship escorted by a police force and Dalits from a nearby village. Punia was there to look into complaints that he received from Dalits over the issue.
"I will summon the Chief Secretary of Orissa within 15 days and seek explanation from him over the matter. After that I will take action against this illegal practice which is very much within the jurisdiction of my commission," Punia said.
Dalits have been denied entry to the Kali temple for the past 80 years, but protests began when last year, few Dalit school girls dared to cross the boundary to offer prayers. They were dragged out by higher caste villagers and insulted, which led to a series of violent clashes.
However, the humiliation did not end there. The Dalits who are basically sharecroppers were denied cultivation from the upper cast land owners.
"Now that we are also denied cultivation, we have not much to eat. We will be forced to leave the village and migrate as labourers," said a Dalit farmer.
This is not the only temple in Orissa where entry of the Dalits is restricted. There have been several such controversies in the past. But due to lack of political will, the age old practice still continues though it's illegal and unconstitutional.