//Dalits banned from yagna

Dalits banned from yagna

AJMER: In a shocking case of caste discrimination, nearly 450 Dalit families of Tiloli village in Bhilwara district were allegedly asked to undergo a purification ceremony by drinking cow urine if they wanted to participate in a seven-day long “sthapana yagna” at the local Hanuman mandir. 

Tension arose in the village last week when Sadhu Rameshwar Lal wanted to to perform a yagna’ in Hanuman temple. “We were happy to know that a religious ceremony would take place in the village and all were ready to participate in it,” said Chogalal, a Dalit veteran of the village.

The village has a population of 5,000 with 450 Dalit households.

A committee was formed to perform the ritual and fund collection started. “But they (upper caste men) refused to make us part of the ceremony and Sadhu Rameshwar Lal announced that no Dalit would participate in the ritual,” said Kanaya Lal Khateek.

Bhanwar Singh, deputy SP Gulabpura said: “We received the information that there was certain dissatisfaction in the village regarding a religious ceremony. We came to know that villagers were not taking the contribution of Dalits and were not allowing them to be a part of the yagna. We called a meeting
of every community on Saturday night and ensured that anyone willing to contribute did so and provide them a receipt for their contribution.”

In the all-community meeting called on February 7, it was decided that no member of any community would perform rituals except the Brahmins.

When the Dalits showed their eagerness to be part of the ritual, Sadhu said if they wanted to participate in the ceremony, they will have to drink cow urine with dung.

“We too wanted to participate in the ritual, after all it is a ceremony of the village,” said Hari Ram Megwanshi.

Three castes — Raiger, Khateek and Badai — were banned to sit for the rituals and Sadhu’s supporters allegedly published pamphlets stating that Dalits were not allowed to sit in the rituals. A group of Dalits then approached the district collector, asking him to intervene. “We met the district collector and told him that we want to give a memorandum to the chief minister,” says Hari Ram.

This was followed by an all-community meeting convened by deputy superintendent of police Bhanwar Lal who was asked by the district collector to tackle the situation.

Despite reaching a unanimous decision that the Dalits can witness the ceremony, they were seen sitting almost 400 meters away from the ceremony.

Even as the situation remained tense, Ladhu Ram Jain of the organizing committee said: “There were some people who wanted to disturb the atmosphere. The Sadhu is performing rituals on his private property and has the right to invite anyone he wants.”

TOI tried to contact district collector Bhagwan Singh Deta many times but he was busy making arrangements for the visit of chief minister Ashok Gehlot on February 10.

10 Feb 2009, Kshitiz Gaur, TNN