Monday, July 16, 2012

Now, UP panchayat bans entry of dalits into temple
Despite many laws, untouchability remains a part of rural India

“We were warned against going to the temple; they threatened us with dire consequences if we dare to lodge a complaint with the police,”   said Badlu Lal, a resident of Sahasa village in the Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh. The warning came not because Lal and his fellowmen did something wrong; their only fault was that, they belong to the dalit community.Terming them “untouchables,” the panchayat of the village, about 250 km from here, reportedly banned the entry of dalits into an ancient and famous temple of Lord Shiva. The panchayat also directed them not to pay obeisance in the temple. 

Despite the fact that ‘untouchability’ was abolished under the Constitution of 1950, the practice still remains a part of rural India. And this is one such example.
According to reports, the panchayat was held in the village on Saturday in which members of the upper castes were present in large numbers. 

Thousands of devotees from the village and nearby areas visit this old and famous temple  of the village during  the month of “Shravana” (a month in the Hindu calendar considered to be auspicious for  Lord Shiva’s devotees) for “Jalabhishek” (offering waters of the Ganga on the Shivalingam), the reports said. Dalit community members were barred from visiting the temple on Friday. When they resisted, they were allegedly threatened with dire consequences and social boycott.Lal alleged that police turned a “deaf ear” to their complaint in this regard.  “Even the local carriers refused to take us to the nearby destination after we lodged the complaint as the panchayat had warned them too,” Lal said.

The order of the panchayat has triggered tension in the village and nearby areas. Senior officials who had reached there with a strong posse of policemen, tried to resolve the matter amicably. As the Shiva temples witness a huge rush of devotees every Monday during “Shravana,” officials are trying to avert a possible law and order situation in the village, sources said. The panchayats in UP have virtually become a law unto themselves. Recently, a panchayat had banned the use of cell phones by women under 40 and  asked them not to go to the markets without escorts. Panchayats have already banned love marriages and marrying against the wishes of the family. Many lovers were killed in the past for not obeying the diktats of the panchayats.
Ajit’s son downplays diktats 
In the backdrop of a panchayat diktat in the Baghpat district of UP banning love marriages and barring women below 40 yrs from using mobile phones created a furore, Rashtriya Lok Dal MP Jayant Chaudhary said decisions of panchayat should not be taken as “diktats or orders” but as “guidance,” reports DHNS from New Delhi."As far as the panchayat system and traditions of the villages are considered, where people live together, they (panchayats) have played a positive role," Chaudhary, who is the son of Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, said.
Chaudhary asserted that panchayats and village elders put in continuous effort to 
create awareness among youth about dowry, foeticide and other evil practices. "Thus it cannot be considered as diktats or orders but can be called guidance."

He stressed that panchayats have a right to express their views on issues and it is for the people to follow them or not. "If an elder sitting at his home puts forward his views, that is his right. People who want to follow it or do not want to follow it, it is their decision,” he added.

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