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State govt to resolve Dalits entry into temple

Bhubaneswar: Slammed by National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) over a tradition baning entry of dalits into a Hindu temple in Puri district, state government on Saturday said it would look into the matter and try to resolve it.

"We will look into it and see how the matter can be resolved," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters, a day after NCSC Chairman L Punia visited the temple premises at Ranapada village under Brahmagiri area and attacked the state government for prevalence of the age-old tradition.

Punia along with senior NCSC officials, rushed to the village on the bank of Chilika lake yesterday after getting information on prevalence of untouchability practice there.

Voicing serious concern, Punia said the main temple of Goddess Kali had been closed before his arrival there. Temple authorities had also removed a sign board which stated that Dalits were allowed only to a particular place from where they could have `darshan` of the Goddess.

Terming the age-old practice as a discrimination against dalits, the NCSC Chairman said he would take up the matter at the national level as the community had been put to socio-economic boycott by upper caste people.

The Commission would also seek a report from the state government asking it to explain as to why law had not been enforced to protect the interest of dalits, he said adding it would take up the matter with the state police chief and other concerned authorities.

"Media reports on dalit entry into the temple is correct and I verified it. While upper caste people are allowed to go close to the Goddess, the dalits are asked to keep themselves far away from the idol. This is a clear case of violation," he said. .

The NCSC also pointed out that three dalit girls were punished for entering into the temple in September 2010. "We were told by the state government that everything had been set right. One person was arrested and people had been living peacefully," said director of NCSC, Kolkata S K Naskar, who accompanied the chairman.

Though nine months have elapsed since the girls were punished for entering into the temple, the socio-economic boycott is continuing. The dalits are mostly engaged in share cropping and eke out living by working in others` field.

However, after the September 2010 incident, they are not given work and subjected to miseries, Punia said.

During his interaction with upper caste people at the village and also the priest of the temple, Punia was informed that dalits were denied entry as it was against the tradition.

The villagers said their fore-fathers did not allow dalits to step inside the temple and they would like to follow the tradition, according to Punia.

Punia also met?Chandana Bhoi, one of the young girls who visited the Goddess in September 2010. She narrated her experience and sought protection from the commission in the face of social discrimination, he said.

Ranapada village has at least 80 Dalit families who were facing socio-economic boycott for the last nine months, he said adding NCSC would seek a report from the state government on the matter.

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