Allegations of caste-based segregation have engulfed a temple in Rajasthan’s Pali district, where Dalits were reportedly offered prasad at separate counters and food in a tent pitched only for them during a ceremony this April.
Dalit rights campaigners have taken to social media to protest the alleged humiliating treatment during the four-day ceremony at Neelkanth Mahadev temple in Sojat city.
They alleged that signboards were placed at the temple on April 22, directing people to different counters based on their castes to pick up prasad and food. As the villagers protested, the organisers quickly removed the signs. But pictures of the alleged segregation already found their way into social media.
“After the religious ceremony ended, people were asked to sit according to their caste in different tents to collect prasad. The savarnas (upper castes) were given a separate tent, whereas Dalits were asked to move to a tent far away from the masses,” said Kishan Khuriwal, the state vice-president of the Left-leaning SFI. “Even temples have not been spared from castesim.”
Dalit leaders say a similar incident will happen on April 29 in Jalore district’s Khetlaji temple, where separate tents have been erected on caste lines.
Social activist Tilaram said a complaint was sent to the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), demanding action against the temple trust. The SDM was not available for comments.
Pali is studded with temples and thousands of devotees flock Sojat’s popular Shiv temple every year.
DSP Bhanwar Lal confirmed that “community-wise” segregation is a norm at religious ceremonies in Pali and adjoining areas of Marwar.
“No complaint was lodged. So, we couldn’t take action. However, community-based segregation is more of a cultural practice in ceremonies in Pali and Marwar,” he said.
Such discrimination at social gatherings is an offence under the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe atrocities act.
Advocate PL Mimroth, a member of the Centre for Dalit Rights, said caste-based discrimination runs deep in rural areas under the guise of tradition and culture.
“Such cases are often brushed under the carpet, saying it’s a norm or a cultural practice in that particular area … the fact remains that such incidents violate the civil rights granted in our Constitution,” he said.
But many people dismissed the allegation, saying such false reports will harm the holy city’s reputation.
“This case does not fall under caste atrocity. The temple is renowned and people of all castes visit it. There might be cases of atrocities in other parts of Rajasthan but not in Pali,” said a resident who runs an NGO but didn’t wish to be named.