Clash over caste: Non-Brahmin priest moves rights panel over ‘injustice’

ALAPPUZHA: S. Sudhikumar, non-Brahmin priest, has approached the Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) against casteism prevalent in Chettikulangara temple in Mavelikkara. Though he was transferred to the temple on June 14, the TDB had cancelled the order following protest from the Sreedevi Vilasam Hindumatha convention saying that he was not proficient in Jeevatha dance observed in the temple. He sent his petition to the commission along with a copy of the Supreme Court judgment in 2002 which ruled that denying jobs to non-Brahmins in temples was violation of human rights and constitutional values.

The Hindumatha convention in its affidavit had said that no person other than a Malayala Brahmin who underwent rituals up to ‘samvarthanam’ of ‘shodasa samskaram’ was an exponent of jeevitha dance. However, Sudhi-kumar said that he had  learnt the Jeevatha dance. Mr Sudhikumar, Palazhi, Cheravally, near Kayam-kulam, who has served  as priest for last 12 years in various temples under TDB, was asked to join the  temple by July 1. But the order was kept in abeyance following the Hindumatha protest. He said that two of three present keezhsanthis (assistant priests) in the  temple — K. Krishnan Naboodiri and S.K. Kumar — were not qualified  in Jeevatha dance. Many non-Malayala Brahmins from Tulu and ‘Moose’ communities had performed Jeevatha dance earlier. The ‘prakkezhunnallathu’ is currently being given as contract,” he said.

 “According to the temple, if a non-Brahmin performs Jeevatha dance, it will fall  a victim to the wrath of Devi. Despite the temple entry proclamation in 1936, the BCs and Dalits are still being sidelined, which is  rights violation,” he said. Pointing out that there was no TDB notification so far insisting on a Malayala Brahmin to be the melsanthi or keezhsanthi in the temple, he claimed that Brahmins from Tulu community were working as Melsanthis there.

Meanwhile, Azhakath Sastrasarman Namboodiripad, president, Tantra Vidhyapeedom, and disciple of the late RSS ideologue P. Madhavji supported the appointment of non-Brahmin priests in all temples. He told Deccan Chronicle that vested interests  along with local temple devotees were playing spoilsport in the  issue.  “I have taught and certified more than 100 non- Brahmins as priests. Qualified non-Brahmins should be appointed in the temples. The practice at Chettikulangara temple  should be opposed. The TDB is applying the same criterion at  Sabarimala as well, which is  condemnable,” he said.


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