Kerala: In CPM-run temple, Dalits still ‘untouchable’
KANNUR: Even as the CPM claims to fight regressive traditions and customs and has taken a pro-active stand on women’s entry in Sabarimala, a popular devi temple run by its members keeps Dalits away from certain rituals associated with the temple’s annual festival.
At the ongoing festival of Azhikkal Pampadi Aalinkeezhil temple here, Dalits are prevented from participating in ‘thiruvayudham ezhunnallathu’ ritual, in which the sacred sword of the goddess is taken to homes of devotees, who then make special offerings. Though Dalits are permitted to pray at this temple, the goddess’ sword is never brought to their homes.
There are around 400 Dalit families in the locality and they feel ostracized when the procession avoids their households, especially since they are keen on participating. The sword has been taken around to homes in the locality since Feb 6. The temple festival concludes on Sunday.
“The irony is that such civil rights violations are happening when the CPM, which is said to be campaigning for renaissance values and entry of women of all ages in Sabarimala is ruling the state. This particular temple is managed by a committee of CPM sympathizers,” Kerala State Pattika Samajam (KPJS) secretary Thekkan Sunil Kumar told TOI. Such discrimination is happening elsewhere too, he alleged.
The temple committee, however, says it can’t change customs overnight. “There is no caste discrimination or untouchability but we cannot change a custom overnight, as it has been going on for years and also the issue is now in the court,” said the temple’s managing committee secretary PP Gangadharan.
‘Need sensitization of communities’
The CPM leadership too harps on the gradual change in customs, incidentally a position they had scorned over the Sabarimala issue. “The temple has not banned the entry of Dalits, but as a practice the ‘thiruvayudham ezhunnallathu’ does not visit Dalit households, and we cannot take any political stand because this temple, unlike Sabarimala and other temples, belongs to a particular community only,” said senior CPM leader and former MLA from Azhikode, M Prakashan. “There are deities for different Hindu castes; whether it is needed is a major question. However, such issues cannot be addressed just through
political intervention and what is needed is sensitization of communities and societal consensus,” Prakashan added.