Priests welcome ‘religious equality’ order, but claim no discrimination
On a day the Uttarakhand high court ruled that upper caste priests cannot refuse to perform rituals on behalf of members belonging to SC/ST communities, the priest community claimed that such discrimination wasn’t practiced at the temples or other religious institutions in the statedehradun Updated: Jul 12, 2018 22:21 IST
On a day the Uttarakhand high court ruled that upper caste priests cannot refuse to perform rituals on behalf of members belonging to SC/ST communities, the priest community claimed that such discrimination wasn’t practiced at the temples or other religious institutions in the mountain state.
They welcomed the order but said not much should be “read into it” and “it must not be taken out of context to infer that Dalits face bias at Uttarakhand temples, shrines and ghats.”
Hearing a petition filed by people from scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, the high court on Thursday said that “system’s failure to accord and protect the dignity, honour and human rights of the persons belonging to lower castes, has led to large scale conversions.” A division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh said, “The high caste priests throughout the State of Uttarakhand shall not refuse to perform religious ceremonies, puja, or rituals on behalf of the members belonging to lower castes in all the religious places and temples.”
The bench added that “all the persons, irrespective of their caste, be permitted to enter any temple without any discrimination,” and “any properly trained and qualified person can be appointed as priest irrespective of his caste in the temples.”
Spiritual guru-turned politician Ravi Dasacharya Suresh Rathore termed it a “landmark decision”. Rathore, the BJP legislator from Jwalapur in Haridwar said, “God is one, but some sections of the society still used to differentiate people by denying them right to perform rituals at religious places,in particular temples.” He said the HC decision will herald “a new era” in religious ritual structure.
In its judgment, the HC said that exclusion of persons from temples “only on the pretext that they belong to the excluded community, is violative of Article 17 of the Constitution of India.”
Reacting to the order, Sanjay Joshi, priest at Hanol Temple in Chakrata block of Dehradun, said, “There are signboards informing that every person, irrespective of caste, race or sex is allowed entry into the temples of Jaunsar.”
Ganga Sabha’s general secretary Ram Kumar Mishra said his outfit “never differentiates” between any devotee or pilgrim on basis of caste or creed. “Only non-Hindu people are not allowed at Har-Ki-Pauri. Dalit devotees are free to take holy dip at sanctum sanctorum of Brahamkund and Ganga ghats and pay obeisance to deities at all the temples.”
To buttress his point, Mishra cited the example of President Ramnath Kovind who paid obeisance at Har-Ki-Pauri earlier this year.
The PIL alleged that previously, untouchability was followed rigidly even in Haridwar, with high caste priests not accepting the alms offered by the pilgrims belonging to the lower caste. “They used to refuse to perform the ceremonies on their behalf. This community still goes to maha-brahmins for performing their religious chores. This is against the spirit of Articles 14, 15 and 17 of the Constitution of India”, the order said.
HC even remarked that “since the system has failed to accord and protect the dignity, honour and human rights of the persons belonging to lower castes, it has led to large scale conversions”.
First Published: Jul 12, 2018 22:21 IST