IndiaEnews.com, Friday, December 15, 2006
A day after 200 Dalits entered an Orissa temple in the wake of a court ruling in their favour, the temple's priests Friday said they would perform purification rituals.
The Dalits Thursday entered the Jagannath temple at Keradagarh village, 45 km from here, defying an age-old ban on their entry by upper castes. They also performed rituals under police protection following last week's high court ruling that allowed them to do so.
However, the temple's chief priest Madan Mohan Panda said: 'We stopped all the rituals that have been regularly performed since decades after they (Dalits) entered the temple Thursday.'
'The Dalits have besmirched the religious traditions and made impure the temple. Now as per practice, we need to perform Maha Snana, a bath ritual of the deity,' Panda told IANS.
'We have already contacted the local royal family members as the temple was built in the 18th century by their predecessors to seek their permission to perform the purification rituals.
'Until the purification rituals are performed, the main gate of the temple would not be opened by us,' he said.
Upper caste campaigner Suren Swain said: 'We will organise a meeting of a large number of upper caste people Saturday to chalk out plans to prevent any further entry of Dalits into the temple.'
Dalits have, however, demanded action against the priests and upper caste leaders who were violating court orders by opposing their entry.
'The district administration should arrest people who illegally closed the main door and stopped the routine rituals,' said Rabindra Sethi, the president of the district's Ambedkar and Lohia Vichar Manch.
Dalits comprise 400 of the village's 1,400 population. In November 2004, villagers had beaten up four Dalit women for entering the temple. Though Dalits tried to enter the temple many times, they were barred by the upper castes.
The Dalits then moved the Orissa High Court, seeking police protection when they entered the temple. A division bench of the high court last week ruled that all Hindus had the right to enter any temple, irrespective of caste.
Though Dalits had entered the temple with police protection Thursday, it would be difficult for them to reenter as most of the villagers are from the upper castes, Sethi said.
Anticipating untoward incidents, the local administration has deployed police forces in the village, a district police official said.
Police have also issued arrest warrants against three upper caste leaders – Managobinda Jena, Suren Swain, and Seshadev Nanda – for allegedly instigating people to oppose the entry of Dalits into the temple.