Uttar Pradesh: Dalits ‘barred’ from entering temple, officials deny claim

By Deepak Lavania / Times Of India

AGRA: Over 50 people belonging to the Dalit community on Monday alleged that they had been prohibited from entering a temple in their village in Uttar Pradesh’s Etah district by upper castes.

A complaint was filed in this regard at the district magistrate office, whose officials said that the claims were “false” and “baseless”.

The incident was reported in the Himmatnagar Bajhera village, which falls under the Marhara block and consists of 1,150 voters, 600 of them being Dalit and a majority of the rest upper caste.
A former caretaker of the temple, Mathura Prasad, told TOI, “In the past one month, 12 Dalits who were trying to enter the temple were beaten up.”

According to locals, the temple was built 10 years ago on government land. On Monday, a group of 50 men and women from the Dalit community staged a protest at the collectorate and submitted a memorandum addressed to the district magistrate.

They claimed that upper caste men had encroached upon the temple and barred them from worshipping there. The letter mentioned that the upper caste men had threatened to kill them if they “dared to enter”.

“On July 9, the men…took over the temple and after beating the priest Ajit, forced him to leave,” it stated.

Village resident Ramkhilari said,” Police are hand in glove with the accused. Despite our complaints, an FIR was not registered. We had to stage a protest at the collectorate on Monday to highlight our plight.”

Another resident, Nem Singh, said, “On the occasion of the first Monday of the auspicious Savan month, we had kept a fast as part of our rituals. We were going to the temple to pray but were stopped by upper caste men. They abused our women. When we objected, they threatened to kill us.”

On Tuesday afternoon, a team of police and local administration reached the village. People from all castes were invited to worship at the temple.

Additional district magistrate Alok Kumar said, “Allegations that people were stopped from entering the temple on the basis of their caste have been found wrong. There were some encroachments, which we have removed.” “Complainants have expressed satisfaction,” he added.

This article first appeared in timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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