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Days after Jignesh Mevani, the lawyer who commandeered Dalit protests in Gujarat’s Una, held a public meeting attended by thousands of Dalits in the temple town of Udupi in Karnataka, a Sangh parivar outfit carried out a ‘shudhikalasham’ (purification) ceremony. According to a report in Dool News, Yuva Brigade, an outfit of the Sangh Parivar, conducted the purification ceremony in the surroundings of the Sree Krishna temple alleging that the area was rendered ‘impure’ by the attendance of Dalits. The farcical ceremony was purportedly led by Vishweshwa Theertha, 86-year-old seer of the Pejewara Mutt. Photographs accompanying the Dool News report showed Theertha cleaning the street with a broom and leading a protest march along with members of the Yuva Brigade. It is reported that the march was held despite orders by the district administration not to do so. IndianExpress.com could not independently verify the event.
The rally titled ‘Chalo Udupi’ on October 9 was attended by thousands of Dalits from Bengaluru to Udupi. Mevani, who spoke at the concluding meeting in Udupi, demanded a ban on cow slaughter groups in the state and the custom of ‘pankti bheda’ (caste-based seating arrangement for food) at the Udupi temple. “We are willing to go to jail for this,” said Mevani. The Gujarat-based lawyer also alleged caste-based discrimination in the allocation of land by the government.
The Pejewara mutt, of which Theertha is the current head, is one of eight mutts managing the activities of the temple. Each mutt is given a term of two years. Theertha, who was a participant of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 90s, is seen to be close to the RSS and its outfits especially in southern Karnataka, its stronghold. The aged seer had also inaugurated a march for Hindu unification led by SNDP leader Vellapally Natesan in Kerala months ago before the state elections there. BDJS, a party floated by Natesan, is currently an ally of the BJP in Kerala. The seer’s inauguration of the march was heavily criticised then by the CPM.