Dalits barred from temple
In the land of the Gurus known for brotherhood among all sections of society, gross discrimination is being meted out to Dalits who are not being allowed to either pray at the sanctum sanctorum of a temple located 15 km from here or partake of ‘langar’.
Dalit devotees coming to Sidh Baba Baal Jati Rupal Temple at Rakhra village, near here, are not allowed even at the platform leading to the sanctum sanctorum. They must offer obeisance from one end of the platform. Similarly, those who want to take ‘langar’ at the temple must use separate utensils kept for them and be seated separately. Both Sikhs and Hindus visit the temple.
Devotees usually throng the temple in large numbers on each Saturday according to tradition as this is the day when the Baba, in whose name the temple stands, visits it. According to custom a sewadar stands at the platform leading to the sanction sanctorum and keeps announcing after short intervals that Dalits should not enter the temple premises and should offer their obeisance from afar. Further, another sewadar sits at the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum to ensure that the “tradition” is maintained in toto.
A visit to the temple revealed that not allowing Dalits into its premises has been a tradition which has been continuing since long and has not been questioned till date. However, the temple management is hesitant to comment on the issue with representatives saying the temple committee chairman alone could speak on the issue.
Devotees visiting the temple were unable to explain why Dalits were not allowed entry into the temple. “It is a well-known fact”, said Gurmail of Bagrian village. He said it was not for him to question either the present “Baba” or the temple management on the issue as the practice had been going on uninterrupted since more than a century.
Jethu, a 60-year-Sikh from Lchhewal village, near here, when he sat in a corner at the temple entrance, said he could not enter the temple as he was a Dalit. Jethu and a few others had no answer as to why Dalits were not allowed inside, saying it must be the practice. “I come here to do seva and partake langar at the temple,” said Jethu, adding that he swept the open space in front of the temple with a broom.
Another Dalit, a rehri owner selling toys outside the temple, said: “We partake langar here but have to use utensils specially earmarked for us. Only this morning I was refused a bowl from the utensils meant for the other devotees when I requested for one,” he explained.
The Dalit said few Dalits visited the temple. However, there were regular rich Dalit visitors to the temple who donated handsomely. They too have to offer the donations from outside the temple.