A priest has been arrested for preventing a 31-year-old Dalit woman from entering a Shiv temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone district on March 1, on the occasion of Mahashivratri, police said.
A case has been registered against three people including priest Shankar Pujari, Manju Patidar and an unidentified woman, under section 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) of IPC and under relevant sections of the SC/ST (prevention of atrocities) Act, according to Siddharth Chaudhary, superintendent of police, Khargone. All of them are residents of Temla village. The priest has been arrested and both the women are absconding, he added.
The incident happened on the occasion of Mahashivratri but the local police took action after a video of the incident went viral on social media on Thursday. In the video, the three could be heard abusing the woman for her caste.
“The complainant Pooja Khande and her friend Shivani Khande, residents of Temla village, had gone to worship at a Shiv Temple on March 1. But when they tried to enter the temple, the priest stopped them and said they could not enter the temple as a special pooja of the Patidar community was going on. Pooja insisted on entering but the two women including Manju Patidar abused her and said Dalits could not worship with them,” Chaudhary said.
Shivani Khande shot the video. The police got to know about the incident on Thursday. A police team visited the village and registered a FIR against all three who stopped the woman from entering the temple.”
“I kept trying and also said the Constitution had given us equal rights so how could they stop me from entering the temple but they didn’t listen to me and kept abusing me. I entered the temple forcefully and offered pooja,” Pooja Khande said.
Khande, who is studying for her BA second year, said she didn’t do anything for publicity but she fought for her rights. “I don’t want to say anything more than this,” she added.
This is not the first incident when members of the scheduled caste have been stopped from entering the temple. Last year in Indore, nine people were booked for stopping a Dalit groom from entering a temple.
Dalit rights activist, Sunil Astay, said, “The incidents of atrocities and discrimination against the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe people are increasing by the day. In many temples in Malwa, Nimar and Bundelkhand region, the entry of Dalits is banned. We are fighting against this social evil but the state government should also take strict action against it to save the rights of scheduled caste and tribe people.”