Kerala

Temple festival at Azhikkal comes under scanner after charges of ‘untouchability’

BJP State president Kummanam Rajasekharan visiting the venue ofthe fastin Kannur on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: S.K. MOHAN

‘Thiruvayudham Ezhunnallathu’ in connection with the Pampadi Aalinkeezhil temple festival at Azhikkal here was otherwise a normal event, except that it was under the scanner now in the wake of an allegation by activists that Dalit families living in the area were excluded from being part of the ritual. The festival concluded on Saturday

The ritual procession had not attracted any special attention till 2015 when the district unit of the Kerala Pattika Jathi Samajam (KPJS) raised an allegation that the 200-odd Dalit families living in the area near the temple were victims of caste discrimination. The charge was that the four-day ritual procession carrying the sacred sword of the deity that visited all Hindu households in the area excluded Scheduled Caste (SC) families there. It acquired political colour when the Dalit activists stated that the temple was run by a committee controlled by the activists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)].

The charge of ‘untouchability’ in connection with the ritual was in the limelight once again with the Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha (JRS) led by Adivasi leader C.K. Janu launching a fast in front of the Collectorate here on February 5 to highlight the issue. The stir was called off on the conclusion of the ritual on Saturday.

“Our agitation is not for the protection of larger Hindu interests but against the ostracism of Dalits in the area in connection with the ritual,” said Thekkan Sunilkumar, RJS general secretary, who is a resident of the area and who had begun the fast. He said the RJS started the agitation now against the revival of the discrimination that was stopped following the District Collector’s intervention in 2015.

The irony was that this ‘untouchability’ was practised by the local cadre of the CPI(M) who controlled the committee, he said. The Collector, in 2015, ordered that the procession either visit all Hindu households, including those of the SC community, or visit only the households of the local Thiyya community that was the traditional custodian of the ‘kavu.’ “The ritual procession as it was traditionally practised was revived this year on our conviction that neither the Kerala State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes nor the the Malabar Devaswom Board found no case against us,” said Mullankandy Mukundan, president of the committee managing the kavu. Defending the practice as a traditional ritual and custom, he denied that there was discrimination against the SC community.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has endorsed the stir by the RJS. BJP State president Kummanam Rajashekharan visited the venue of the fast on Saturday. “The late Communist leader A.K. Gopalan was at the forefront of Guruvayur Satyagraha demanding Dalits’ right of temple entry and today, the Dalits are in a condition of staging a march to the AKG Centre in protest against discrimination in the temple controlled by the CPI(M),” he said.

The CPI(M) district leadership responded by issuing a release saying that party district unit secretary P. Jayarajan and area committee secretary K.P. Sudhakaran, along with Pattika Jathi Kshema Samithi members, would visit the temple on Sunday to ascertain the facts.


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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 1:11:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/Temple-festival-at-Azhikkal-comes-under-scanner-after-charges-of-%E2%80%98untouchability%E2%80%99/article17290309.ece

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