`Not easy to change mindset`: Kerala minister K Radhakrishnan `faces caste bias`, temple refutes charge`

  • | Friday | 22nd September, 2023

KOZHIKODE: Progressive Kerala may no longer be the casteist lunatic asylum that Swami Vivekananda bemoaned about more than a century ago, but purity and pollution phobias still lurk in the most unexpected places. A day after state devaswom minister K Radhakrishnan confessed that he himself faced caste discrimination at a temple event, he said, "It is not easy to change the mindset created by the caste system. It is a stain in the minds... It is not easy to remove it like a stain on clothes". He was speaking to the media in Thrissur on Tuesday.On Monday, the minister, one of the most prominent Dalit faces of the CPM and the partys central committee member, had refused to reveal where the incident happened but It has emerged that it took place at Nambiatrakovval Siva Temple, Payyannur, under Malabar Devaswom Board when he went there to inaugurate the nadapandal of the temple on January 26.On Tuesday, the minister clarified that he did not intend to turn the incident into a controversy or pursue any legal action.Video clips of the function which have surfaced shows the chief priest lighting the traditional lamp (nilavilakku) with a small handheld lamp (kaivilakku) and then handing the lamp over to the assistant priest. The assistant priest also lights the traditional lamp and keeps the kaivilakku on the floor without handing it over to the minister. Though a woman officer of the devaswom board takes the lamp from the ground and hands it over to the minister, he declines it. While the lamp lighting function was held within the temple compound, the inaugural function was held outside. They thought that I would take the flame from the floor and light the lamp. Should I light the lamp? Should I take it? I said get lost. You dont consider the money given by me as untouchable but you consider me as untouchable, Radhakrishnan had fumed at a function at Kottayam on Monday.Representatives of temple employees organisation tried to put a different gloss on the incident, saying that the priest had kept the lamp on the ground not as part of any caste discrimination but as part of following the custom of shanthi shudham in which priests would not touch anyone when they are ready for poojas after taking bath. It had happened at around 5 pm and at that time the sanctum sanctorum was already opened by the priests who would have come to the temple after taking bath and he would have thought that he should maintain shanthi shudham at that time before the poojas. The priest would not have directly handed over the lamp at that time even if it was a member of his family or from the tanthris family, said V V Sreenivasan, convenor of Kerala State Temple Employees Coordination Committee.Malabar Devaswom Board Chairman MR Murali appeared to reject this view. If the minister is attending a function held outside the temple, then he is obviously the most important person there. It was a lapse on the part of the organisers which had led to the incident and it is a serious matter. As the priests were attending the function standing in the middle of a group of people, what was the need to keep the lamp on the ground, Murali asked, adding that the board had taken corrective measures and issued a warning.CPM leader and Payyannur MLA T I Madhusoodhanan, temple trustee board members which also included CPM leaders and peoples representatives, were present when the incident took place. Madhusoodhanan said that he along with the minister had expressed their strong disapproval of the act publicly at the public function after the lighting of the traditional lamp and that the incident was a result of an immature stand and reflection of the decadent mindset of an individual and it was saddening as it happened in Payyannur which had a legacy of renaissance.Temple thantri Tharananellur Padmanabhan Unni Namboodirippad said he was not present at the temple when the minister came. I do not know what exactly happened there on that day. Also, I have not yet been formally informed about it by anyone, including the temple authorities. I am not ready to fault anyone without knowing the full details, he said.

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