By Rathin Das
In yet another instance of caste discrimination against Dalits during religious festivals in Gujarat, Dalits in a village, Bhataria of the Mehsana district, boycotted a temple feast as they were made to sit separately from others.
Such incidents are not uncommon in the state where Dalits routinely face such discrimination in all walks of life, including roadside eateries, saloons, mid-day meals in schools, wedding procession and other events.
Two years ago, a Dalit empowerment organisation had taken out a march to state capital Gandhinagar to ask the state chief minister to name just one village in Gujarat where untouchability is not practiced. The chief minister neither met them nor took up the challenge to name a single ‘untouchability-free’ village in Gujarat.
The consecration (Pran Pratistha) ceremonies of the Umiya Mata and Mahadev temples were organised by the upper-caste Patidar community of the village on Sunday and Monday.
On the occasion, elaborate food arrangements were made for all. But when the time for the feast came, about 120 Dalits of the village found to their discomfiture a separately the sitting arrangement was made for them at a distance away from the temple.
Even the village sarpanch, Vijayaben Parmar, was asked to sit separately as she is a Dalit. The agitated Dalits refused the feast and later lodged a complaint with the district collector.
The Social Justice Department officials rushed to the village even as the Patidar community leaders denied the allegations. After arranging meetings between the Patidars and Dalit communities, the officials claimed that the issue has been amicably resolved. They are hopeful that such incidents won’t recur in future.