Faced caste discrimination at temple, says Kerala minister | Thiruvananthapuram News

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Kerala Temple Affairs Minister K Radhakrishnan has said that he faced caste discrimination at a temple in the state when he went there to be part of a function recently.

A member of the CPI(M) state secretariat, and seen as the party’s chief Dalit face, Radhakrishnan also slammed the caste system in Hinduism and said those who created it had a clear agenda: “to keep people divided”.

The minister did not name the temple where he faced alleged discrimination.

State-managed Travancore Devaswom (temple affairs) Board — or TDB — president and CPI(M) leader K Ananthagopalan said such an incident is “unlikely” at a temple under the Board but assured that they will “examine the issue”.

Radhakrishnan’s remarks are being seen as an embarrassment for the CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala, which takes pride in the state’s renaissance values and has been credited with appointing Dalit priests in temples under the TDB in 2018 as part of its inclusive policy.

Addressing a function of Velan Service Society, an organisation of people from the Scheduled Castes community in Kottayam on Sunday, Radhakrishnan said: “I went to a temple for a function related to the inauguration. The temple chief priest came to me with a lamp for lighting. I thought the lamp was meant for me, but he (chief priest) did not hand it to me — he went and kindled the lamp. I kept away, assuming that it was part of the ritual at that temple. The chief priest then handed over the light to the assistant priest. I thought that the light would be handed over to me thereafter, but they did not give me — instead placed the light on the floor.”

He said, “They (priests) thought I would take up the light and kindle the lamp. Should I pick it? I told them to mind their business.”

Radhakrishnan said although he faced discrimination at that temple, there was no discrimination towards the money he, and others like him, donated to the temple. “There is no discrimination towards the money offered by the poor at the temple — I said this in the presence of that chief priest,’’ he said.

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While the temple authorities have “no qualms” taking money from people of all castes, Radhakrishnan said they have “kept away humans on the grounds of caste”.

He said: “I don’t agree with going back to the days of the caste system. Those who created the caste system had a clear perspective: to keep people divided. Those who created the caste system are (more) intelligent and smarter than people involved in the Chandrayaan mission.”

Incidentally, the famous shrine Sabarimala, which, too, is under the state-run TDB, still appoints only Malayala Brahmins as chief priests for Sannidhanam, the temple for the main deity, Lord Ayyappa, and Malikappuram, the goddess enshrined in a small temple nearby. A group of Dalit priests has moved a petition in the High Court, challenging TDB’s annual notification seeking only Malayala Brahmin applicants for the post of chief priests at Sabarimala.

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