Dalits to embrace Buddhism over temple row

IANS, Dec 20, 2006

Kendrapada, Orissa (India) -- Hundreds of Dalits in Orissa will embrace Buddhism protesting against the alleged government failure to protect their right of entry into a temple despite a court order, a Dalit leader said Wednesday.

A division bench of the Orissa High Court had on Dec 14 ruled that all Hindus had the right to enter any temple, irrespective of caste.

However, Dalits are unable to enter Jagannath temple at Keradagarh in the coastal district of Kendrapada, Bhajamana Behera, a Dalit leader and former union minister told IANS.

Dalits were earlier allowed to worship the deity through the nine holes on the outer wall of the temple, said Behera, who is also the president of Orissa Mukti Morcha, an organisation fighting for the cause of Dalits.

After the court's direction the administration should have come forward to help Dalits, he said.

However, the local administration will now build an iron grill after closing the holes so that both Dalits and upper caste villagers see the deity from a common platform that would be built.

"It is an insult to all Dalits and violates the court's order," Behera alleged.

"At least 3,000 Dalits of the district will file affidavits before the district collector on Jan 3, 2007 to embrace Buddhism," said Ashok Mallick, president of Republican Youth and Students Front (RPSF).

"I am not aware about the plan of Dalits to embrace Buddhism," District Collector Kashinath Sahoo said.