A “purification” drive organised at the Udupi Krishna Temple by a senior RSS leader and head seer of Pejawer Mutt on Sunday has sparked objections, with Dalit groups claiming that the drive was directed against them.
The call for the purification drive, called Kanaka Nadige, was given by Chakravarthy Sulibele, RSS leader and head of Yuva Brigade in Karnataka, after an Udupi Chalo rally was organised by Dalit groups on October 9 to demand justice and equality in the Udupi temple. Jignesh Mevani, a leader from Gujarat, was among several Dalit speakers at the event who called for an end to restrictive practices against Dalits and curbs on gau rakshaks.
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Following the October 9 event, the Yuva Brigade initially called for cleaning of streets in the whole of Udupi. This prompted pro-Dalit groups to call for a rally in the town on October 23, called Swabhiman Nadige, and approach the Udupi administration for a ban on the Yuva Brigade’s Kanaka Nadige. Udupi SP K T Balakrishna denied permission to both Kanaka Nadige and Swabhiman Nadige.
Subsequently, the Dalit groups postponed their rally, while the Yuva Brigade conducted a cleansing ritual on the premises of the Udupi Krishna Temple. Around 500 Yuva Brigade volunteers cleaned the toilets, parking lots, kitchens and other areas in the compound on Sunday.
“This is not an anti-Dalit purification. Dalits participated in the cleaning, and we had food together. The purification exercise was carried out because of wrong messages spread about the Udupi Mutt during the Chalo Udupi rally, where it was alleged that there was discrimination at the mutt. If they think it is against Chalo Udupi, let them,’’ RSS leader Sulibele said during the programme.
Pejawer Mutt seer Vishweshwara Thirtha, who told state government officials that he was opposed to the cleansing ritual but could not pull out as the Yuva Brigade had made arrangements, said the ritual was meant for holistic cleaning. “We need internal and external purification. It is not against any community,’’ he said.
Dalit groups, meanwhile, objected to the cleansing ritual and demanded action against those who participated in it.
“The Kanaka Nadige was held in places that are not exactly in the mutt premises. Strict action should be taken for violating the order of the administration. Despite their claims, the cleaning drive was directed against Dalits,” said Shyamraj Birthi, an organiser of the proposed Swabhimana Nadige event.
The Chalo Udupi rally was declared a Dalit “self-respect convention”, organised as part of efforts to build a nationwide coalition of Dalits, women, minority and oppressed communities.
One of the demands that Mevani made at the rally was for a ban on caste-based seating (pankti bheda) for meals at the Udupi temple. He had said that the Karnataka government should direct the temple authorities to change the system or face protests.