Priest evicted for dalit wedding

| 26 August 2002 23:35 IST

Within a year, Goa has witnessed yet another incident of caste discrimination, with non-Brahmin OBC community people exhibiting their anti-dalit sentiments in a crude manner. In fact the immediate victim is a Brahmin priest, who has been driven out for performing a dalit wedding.

Last year in August, villagers had prohibited cremation of a dalit in a public crematorium, meant for Hindus, in the Bardez taluka, comprising of Goa's famous tourist beaches like Calangute and Baga, where locals run behind the white foreign skin but still consider their own dalit community as untouchables.

Incidentally, the same organisations like Samata Andolan and Goan People's Front, have once again succeeded in resolving the issue amicably, this time in the northernmost Pedne taluka of the state, near Maharashtra border.

Shambhu Kale, a mid-age priest along with his old mother, wife and two children, was forced to give in writing that he is quitting the temple job. He was also forced to vacate the house his father had built, after they migrated from the neighbouring Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra four decades ago.

Incidentally, the tiny Khajne village predominantly consists of Bhandari - a toddy tapping community - which is also included in the OBC list. But the neo-wealthy educated lot of the village appears to have exercised their power, to victimise the poor priest as well as the dalits, who are living equally in a pathetic condition there.

The issue became public when a local daily exposed the news that the priest was evicted in July, after the temple committee came to know about the wedding he had performed in May. It appears that the wedding incident was exploited skilfully to evict the priest, whom the committee wanted to get rid of anyway. Unfortunately, the move boomranged.

"This is a political ploy and the quitting of the priest has nothing to do with the dalit wedding. In fact our temple represents all, from a Brahmin to a Harijan, as the 'mahajan' (member) of the temple committee", claims Damodar Sawal, president of the temple committee.

Their approach of 'progressive orthodoxy' however came to light when local dalits disclosed that they are still prohibited in the temple beyond certain limits, not allowed to bring home-made 'prasad' for the pooja and even not allowed to draw water from the public well.

To the good fortune of the priest as well as the dalits, the move was opposed by some of their own villagers, while Kale was provided total protection and even shelter by the neighbouring village of Poraskadem, part of the same panchayat, including the sarpanch.

Following the issue also getting echoed in the Assembly, chief minister Manohar Parrikar personally summoned the priest to verify the facts while the sarpanch personally went to hand him over his house. The CM is yet to make a statement in the House in this regard.

Meanwhile, bowing before the public pressure and intervention of the NGOs, the temple committee has now publicly assured not to prohibit the priest from visiting dalit houses. But in spite of this, Kale still gets scared to go and stay in the village, which says it all.

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