A few elders from the village had gotten upset that Chandru’s two-year-old child entered the temple, and told the family that they should pay a penalty.

A picture of the protest held by the Chennadasar community members in Koppal
news Caste Wednesday, September 22, 2021 - 14:27

“It was my son’s birthday and we wanted to offer our prayers at the Anjaneya temple in front of our house. It started raining then and my son entered the temple. That is all that happened,” says Chandru, father of a two-year-old child who was penalised by the ‘village elders’ for entering a temple. Chandru and his family are Dalits and are not allowed entry into the Anjaneya Temple in Miyapura of Koppal, much like in several other temples in the region.

“This incident happened on September 4 but for the next few days they discussed and told us what penalty we should pay. We told them that we cannot afford to pay Rs 23,000 as fine so they initiated action against us. I’m a labourer and my wife does not work. How can they do this?” Chandru told TNM. The temple priest and others who opposed the toddler's entry into the temple belong to the Ganiga community, a Lingayat sub-caste.

After the incident came to light, a few from the Chennadasar community that Chandru belongs to held protests. A police complaint was filed and the local authorities held mediations.

A few elders from the village had gotten upset that Chandru’s son went inside the temple and told the family that they should pay for the purification of the temple as a penalty. The priest who conducts these rituals told the family that the process will cost around Rs 23,000, a sum that is more than Chandru’s two months’ salary. “After the police called for a peace meeting, they apologised to us. We are new to this place and have been here for just two years. These incidents have happened many times before here,” Chandru adds.

Members from the Chennadasar community intervened in this case and tried to reason with the dominant caste leaders of the village, which only antagonised them further. Finally, a complaint was filed by Balachandra Sanganal, the Assistant Director of the Social Welfare Department, and action was initiated. As of Wednesday, September 22, five people have been arrested by the police. A few reports say that all the Lingayats in the village were not of the opinion that the family needs to be fined.

A precarious truce has been struck between the communities and the police even held public meetings to urge people not to continue casteist practices. A ceremony was held in the village where people from all communities participated. But a government official who was present during the ‘peace meeting’ spoke to TNM anonymously and said that the issue seems far from over. “Because this issue became a police case, the supposed elders pretended to let go of it. But there have been threats to the family for raising their voice against this. Our fear is that there will be no issues for a while but the upper caste people will find a way to trouble the family and those from the community again very soon.”

Dalit Swabhimani Sangharsha Samiti state convener R Mohanraj says this is not an isolated incident and that there have been several incidents of discrimination against Dalits in these areas in the recent past. “These issues are never-ending. From untouchability to ostracisation, there are incidents reported from all over. There have been at least four such incidents reported from Yadagiri in the last six months,” Mohanraj tells TNM.

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