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Court bans entry into Orissa temple

Devotees are barred from entering an 18th century temple following a public suit seeking protection for Dalits.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2006 13:24 IST

Security was beefed up on Saturday at an Orissa temple after a court banned the entry of devotees following a public suit seeking protection for Dalits who plan to enter the shrine defying an ages-old ban.

Dalits are barred from getting into the 18th century Jagannath temple at Keradagarh village in the coastal district of Kendrapada, 90 km from Bhubaneswar, by Hindu upper castes.

An advocate, Akhya Kumar Mallik, had filed a public interest petition in the Orissa High Court in the first week of November seeking protection for Dalits when they enter the temple on Sunday.

The court served show cause notices to the affected parties, including the district administration.

In view of the tension in the village, deputy district chief Raghunath Padhy filed a petition in the high court seeking that status quo be maintained in the temple.

In response, the division bench of the high court, comprising Justice IM Quddusi and Justice N Prusty, banned the entry of people into the temple, barring the priests and the staff on Friday.

"Nobody will be allowed inside the temple except for the priests and other staff until the disposal of the petition," the judges said. However, the judges said the court was open to hear any party affected by its interim order.

The district administration beefed up security in the area in view of the court order, a district official said.

Dalits and upper castes in Keradagarh village have been at loggerheads over the temple for two years. However, trouble erupted two weeks ago when the Ambedkar-Lohia Vichar Manch rights group announced that Dalits would forcibly enter the temple on November 19. It later rescheduled the date to November 26.

In November 2004, villagers beat up four Dalit women for entering the temple. Dalits have tried to enter the temple several times but have always been prevented by the upper castes. The village, with a population of about 1,400, has 400 Dalits.

Dalits in Orissa are not allowed to enter and worship in many Hindu temples by the upper castes.

In Chauriberhampur village, on the outskirts of Kendrapada town, Dalits built their own Shiva temple in April after being denied entry into the local temple. They appointed a Brahmin as priest at their temple and allow people from upper castes to enter and worship.

First Published: Nov 25, 2006 13:24 IST