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India: Government tells temples to display boards denouncing discrimination

Wednesday 23 November 2016, by siawi3


TNN | Nov 23, 2016, 12.30 AM IST

Bengaluru: ’Entry for Devara Darshana (God’s blessings) is free and open to all, irrespective of caste, race, religion and gender’. This is what the government wants 34,453 temples in the state to put up at their entrance.

The government’s move is aimed at ending discrimination at temples and comes in the backdrop of reports that some of them continue to give priority to devotees on the basis of caste affiliations. According to the order, a copy of which has been accessed by TOI, the muzrai department recently directed deputy commissioners to ensure these boards are put up at the entrances of temples.

“The idea is to tell people there’ll be no preferential treatment inside a temple and that all devotees will be treated equally. They can walk in without apprehensions,” said a senior IAS officer. The order also comes with a word of caution: “All temples, including the privately owed ones, are centres of devotion and it is the God-given right of every devotee to seek blessings. All devotees are equal in the eyes of God. Moreover, Article 15 of the Constitution mentions that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, caste, race, sex and place of birth. If any of the temples, including the private ones, prohibit certain sections from entering its premises , it will be termed illegal.”

According to sources, the order has been issued in the backdrop of the ’Chalo Udupi’ campaign undertaken in the second week of October by a few progressive groups protesting discrimination against dalits. While the groups opposed “Pankti Bedha” (the discriminatory practice of having separate seating arrangements for Brahmins) followed in Udupi mutts, Pejawar Mutt pontiff Sri Vishwesha Thirtha Swamiji refuted the allegations, saying some orthodox Brahmins demand a separate place to have food as they follow some rituals before meals. Though the government didn’t openly react to the controversy, it passed the order which disapproves of any form of discrimination in the name of rituals.

Sources said the order will help the Siddaramaiah government consolidate Ahinda (acronym for backward classes, minorities and the dalits) votes in the run up to the 2018 assembly polls. “A majority of the temples that impose restrictions on devotees are from the BJP-dominated coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi,” they added.