Row over Srimandir entry issue in govt mouthpiece

Bhubaneswar: An editorial in the state government`s mouthpiece, "Utkal Prasang" on the issue of entry into the Puri Jagannath temple has sparked off a row with an organisation demanding action against the editor. In a signed editorial in the June issue of Utkal Prasang, its editor and senior BJD leader Hussain Rabi Gandhi advocated for the entry of converted Hindus including foreigners into Sri Jagannath temple at Puri.

The shrine has age-old tradition of denying entry to non-Hindus and converted Hindus into the temple. Gandhi`s article evoked criticism from priests and Jagannath Sena, a Puri based socio-cultural organisation which demanded withdrawal of the article and action against the editor. The Sena also lodged a complaint against Gandhi in the court of sub-divisional judicial magistrate, Puri.

"How can the government`s mouthpiece carry such a controversial issue during the Rath Yatra," asked Priyadarsan Pattnaik, convener of Jagannath Sena. "Gandhi has hurt sentiments of millions of Hindus in the state," Pattnaik said. Gandhi, however, said, "My article is not at all anti-Hindu. I have not demanded entry of non-Hindus into the temple. I did not mean to hurt sentiment of anyone. I apologize if the article hurts anyone," he said.

Gandhi said religious scholars should debate whether to allow converted Hindus and ISKCON pilgrims, who might be foreigners, into the Jagannath temple. "We have ordered suspension on the sale of Utkal Prasang`s June 2012 issue in view of the opposition from different sections," B C Mohanty, the director of information and public relations, said.