Skip to main content

Vibrant Gujarat: It took five years for Dalits to be finally allowed to enter village temple on public land

The temple priest with Dalit activists
By Our Representative
Under the “Gujarat model” of development, there is reason why Dalits being allowed entry into a public temple in a village dominated by high caste persons makes news. This is what happened in Kherpur village, barely 30 kiometres from the Gujarat capital, Gandhinagar. A few days ago, in May second week, Dalits, with 20 households in Kherpur in Kadi taluka of Mehsana district of North Gujarat, were finally allowed to enter into the local temple and pray, without any hindrance. It is the same village which saw high caste persons fatally attacking Dalit men, women and children as a “punishment” for forcing their way into the temple in 2008.
Led by Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust chief Manjula Pradeep, the Dalits were not just welcomed in the village but even “offered” water personally by the temple priest, who had once opposed their entry. It took full five years for them to enter the temple without fear. In fact, not only were they allowed in, the priests of private temples belonging to non-Dalit communities – Patels, Rabaris, Prajapatis, Thakores and Devipujaks – sent a message Dalits were welcome in their temples, too. “A long and arduous struggle tells the saga of how this happened”, said Bharat S Parmar, a Navsarjan activist who was the chief campaigner for temple entry.
A village, many of whose Patel community members are non-resident Indians (NRIs) settled in the US, in 2008 a garba festival took place next to the temple, on the public land. Dalits youths participated in the song-and-dance function. A section of non-Dalits objected, and the festival was called off. The argument was, if Dalits participated in the function, NRIs wouldn’t agree to get their boys married with the “village daughters.” The next day, as a mark of protest, the Dalits decided to enter the temple, but they were refused entry.
Dalits prepare to enter into the temple
“A case under the anti-atrocities law was registered. The matter went to the court. Seven persons were sentenced to 100 months’ imprisonment by the Mehsana sessions court in a ruling in 2009. This inflamed the non-Dalits”, Parmar told Counterview. “Around the Diwali time, five members of a Dalit family, including two children, were going to their farm to till land in a bullock cart. They were fatally attacked. While one person’s one leg and one hand were broken, another person suffered head injury. One child fell unconscious.”
“One of the children, who ran away, reached the Dalit locality of the village and made hue and cry, the Dalits rushed to the spot. Ambulance was called. First the injured were shifted to the Civil Hospital in Kadi, but as the injury was very serious, they were shifted to Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital. Later in the day, a Dalit elder was similarly fatally attacked. While Patels did not participate in the attack, we suspect a mischievous person among them instigated members of other castes”, Parmar said, adding, “Even the police refused to take complaint under section 307 (attempt to murder). Its FIR was registered under section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt).”
“Navsarjan took up the matter, taking things to not just to the court, but also held a well-attended rally of rural Dalits of the area on the public land of the village in solidarity with those who had been fatally attacked. Around 1,500 participated. Eight culprits were held and put behind bars. Even then, fear remained among Dalits, and they wouldn’t enter the temple. After constant consultations with village elders, especially Dalits, it was decided that on May 11 they would force their way into the temple. To our utter surprise, there was no resistance. Cops were called to ensure that there was untoward incident”, Parmar said.

Comments

TRENDING

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Why crib? 4.5% is far better than pre-1980 'Hindu rate of growth': Subramanian replies

By Rajiv Shah
Even as sticking to his original argument that India's gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 has been overestimated by 2.5%, renowned economist Arvind Subramanian has said in a fresh paper that his estimate of post-2011-12 growth rate at around 4.5% is surely not "implausibly low", as some of his critics have been arguing following his controversial June paper.

UP's Sonbhadra killing of 10 tribals highlights 'failure' to implement Forest Rights Act

Counterview Desk
On July 17, as many as 10 people, including three women, were killed and 28 injured when a village head and his supporters opened fire on a group of tribal farmers in Ubha village of Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh. While the firing took place following a clash between over a land ownership dispute, it reportedly highlights failure of officials enforce Forest Rights Acts (FRA) and Survey Settlement in favour of tribals.

Govt of India 'lying': MGNREGA budget reduced by Rs 1,084 crore in 2019-20

Counterview Desk
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a well-known advocacy group for the rural jobs guarantee scheme, under implementation since 2005, has said that the statement by the Rural Development Minister has a made a mockery of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on the floor of Parliament, revealing the ruling BJP’s “anti-worker and anti-poor bias”.

Govt of India seeks to 'subvert' autonomy of adjudicating authorities: RTI amendment

Counterview Desk
India's independent Right to Information watchdog, The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), in a statement, has said that the Government of India’s proposed amendments to the RTI Act to empower the Centre to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners at the Centre and States “seriously undermine” the law.

None of India's ministries, departments have mining children on the radar: MPs told

By Our Representative
A delegation of two civil rights groups, Samata and mines, minerals and People (mm&P), has impressed upon several of India's members of Parliament (MPs) to discuss and raise issues relating to illegal mining, the Samata judgment, children in the mining areas and the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) in Parliament, adding, the issue of involvement of gram sabhas in decision making ought to be central for allowing any new projects in forest areas.

Demand to withdraw sedition charge against 30,000 unnamed Adivasis, activists

Counterview Desk
Every 10th Adivasi of Jharkhand’s Pathalgadi area is charged with sedition, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM), a network of activists and people’s organisations, which organised a protest in Ranchi in front of the Governor's house, has said. In a statement following the protest on Monday, JMM has called for larger support to stand up against violations of Constitutional rights of Adivasis and use of sedition law as tool for repression.

Introduced in Lok Sabha, amendment proposals a 'blow' to RTI's federal scheme

By Venkatesh Nayak*
In less than two months of returning to power, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA-III) government has revived its 2018 proposal to curtail the autonomy of the Information Commissions established under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). A similar attempt was made exactly one year ago but the Bill to assume power to regulate the tenure, salaries and allowances of Information Commissioners across the country was not tabled in Parliament.

Satellite images may be used to support verdict to 'evict' lakhs of India's forest dwellers

By Our Representative
Ahead of a crucial Supreme Court hearing on July 24, indications have emerged suggesting India's top officialdom is preparing grounds to support the controversial petition by hardcore conservationists, which led the apex court to order on February 13 a time-bound eviction of millions of forest dwellers, whose claims for forest land under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) was rejected by authorities across India.