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Karnataka: Why did Section 144 have to be imposed for eight Dalits to enter a temple?

For 28 years, savarnas [the oppressor castes]banned Dalits from entering a temple. Following major opposition by the savarnas, the Dalits sought police protection.

The Superintendent of Police (SP) deployed a police force by implementing Section 144. Even the local police were on tenterhooks regarding Dalitsenteringthe temple.

Due to the fear of disruption in law and order, eight Dalits were escorted in a police car to be able to enter the temple. But permission was not given to perform puja [worship] and the eight people had to come back after just being able to do darshan [visit the temple].

The Dalit family members are still full of fear, they are neither able to sleep nor able to eat properly. The police have set up a camp in the temple, and the village is being patrolled by a PRV [police response vehicle].

Karnataka— For 28 years, Dalits have been prohibited from entering a Hanuman temple in Kembhavi in the ​​Yadgir district of the state. Against this denial of their right [to temple entry] and to be able to exercise this right, a few Dalit families approached the regional police. But the regional police refused to help. The matter escalated to the district Superintendent of Police, who imposed Section 144 in the areas where the Dalits could exercise their right to enter the temple. Besides this order, to ensure the security of the Dalit families during the darshan, there was heavy deployment in the area of police carrying AK-47s.

According to local Dalit people, the Superintendent of Police extended full support and security measures. However, up until the day fixed for worship, the regional police, instead of assuring this security to the Dalit families, kept telling them, “You people should cancel the program to visit the temple. There are much higher numbers of the other people and fewer numbers of police personnel. We will not be able to provide security for you.”

The Yadgir Superintendent of Police, however, had issued a warning that “If anyone breaks the law, strict action will be taken against them.” Following this, the regional police escorted eight people in a police car and entered the temple grounds. Local people say that during this time, the people were only allowed to do darshan. They were not given permission to perform any program inside the temple. From the point of view of security, the police have set up a camp in the temple, and along with this, the police are also patrolling the village.

Local Dalit families have said the people have been living in fear since the temple visit. They are neither able to eat comfortably nor are they able to sleep. They are saying that the [eight] people and their families remain in danger of being attacked and their life threatened. The police, however, are continuously patrolling the area.

Local Dalit villagers [Photo: Satya Prakash Bharti, The Mooknayak]
Local Dalit villagers [Photo: Satya Prakash Bharti, The Mooknayak]

What is the whole matter about?

According to the local people of Huvinhalli village in the Shorapur taluk of Yadgir district of Karnataka, about 40 Dalit families live in this village. Around 250 people comprise these 40 households, whereas there are more than 2,000 savarna caste households. Located at a distance of about half a kilometer from the village is an Anjaneya Temple (Hanuman Temple).

For about 28 years, according to the local Dalit people, they have been prohibited from entering this temple. This ban, which was imposed by a regional leader, Sangan Gowda, 28 years ago, still continues to be followed. To the extent that, Dalits were not even allowed to touch the gate of the temple or the walls bordering it. When a Dalit family holds any program, they are not allowed to conduct it within the temple premises, they have to offer their prayers from outside the temple and return.

Dalit women [Photo: Satya Prakash Bharti, The Mooknayak]
Dalit women [Photo: Satya Prakash Bharti, The Mooknayak]

Dalits demand the right to hold Jatra Puja

Jyothi, a resident of Huvinhalli village, told us that about a week before May 28, all the Dalit families decided to perform a Jatra Puja in the temple. When the savarnas came to know about this plan, they came down in heavy opposition. Jyothi said, “Being a Hindu, it is my right to worship in the temple. I live in a democratic country. Following the savarna protests against our plan for the Puja, my husband and the members of other families in the village went to the police to ask for help due to the opposition of the savarnas to exercise our right to worship.”

Jyothi adds, “My husband and the members of several other families in the village used to leave the house at 7 am in the morning to seek help from the police, and return home at 12 am at the night. The local police station refused to help. Then everyone went to the Superintendent of Police’s office. The SP promised to provide full support and protection.”

After the Dalit families made their request to him, the Yadgir Superintendent of Police, Dr. C.B. Vedmurthy took a stand to ensure that their right was upheld. On May 27, he made a tour ofHuvinhalli village. He talked to people from both communities. However, during this visit, at first, the savarnas protested against the presence of the police officer and the atmosphere became tense. In view of the situation, Section 144 was imposed in the area.“The Superintendent of Police asked all of us to prepare for the program, and also assured us that the police would provide full protection,” said Jyothi.

The Superintendent of Police implemented Section 144, and ordered the deployment of heavy security presence.
The Superintendent of Police implemented Section 144 and ordered the deployment of a heavy security presence.

This case is perhaps the first of its kind in the country, in which Section 144 has been imposed to enable Dalits to enter a temple. To ensure law and order in the area, the Superintendent of Police has deployed 10 sub-inspectors, 150 civil constables, and two platoons, one each from the District Armed Reserve and Karnataka State Reserve Police.

Regional police were the uncooperative morning of May 28

Local Dalit people told us that, “On 28 May morning, the preparations for the program were in full swing. Some Dalit families also wanted to perform the mundane ceremony for their children, and the people had also made arrangements for this. Along with preparing festive dishes at home, guests were also been invited. The program was planned for around 10 o’clock. When the police did not arrive on time, some members of the Dalit families then went to Kembhavi police station.”

It is alleged that when protection was sought from the police, the police started to intimidate them instead. The police told them that the protesting group had many more people than the capacity of the police. According to the local people, the police personnel was filled with fear themselves, and they said they would not be able to provide the necessary protection.

Only eight people were allowed entry into the temple

The matter again reached the Superintendent of Police, after which a police escort vehicle arrived at the village around 4 pm. According to a local resident, “The police took only eight people to the temple in their car. The car was escorted by other police vehicles traveling in front of and behind it. The eight Dalit people included six women – Lakshmi, Yellamma, Lakshmi Bai, Shyamala, Devamma, Jayashree–and two men – Yemappa and Bhimappa.”

Temple locked, worship refused

Eyewitnesses said that when the Dalits reached the temple, it was locked. The police had the lock removed with great difficulty. The local Dalits told us that they wanted to perform the Jatra Puja in

the temple. Some Dalit families also wanted to perform the mundan rites of their children, but they were not allowed to do so. Once the eight people had done darshan under police escort, they were dropped back home.

Tense atmosphere, the guests returned hungrily

The local Dalit people told us they had expected that on May 28, with the help of the police, the Puja and all the programs would happen. Special arrangements had been made for all this. While the police could help some local Dalitpeople enter the temple, they were unable to let the Puja ceremony go ahead due to the fear of people coming out in opposition and creating unrest.

One family said, “Food had been prepared in the house for the guests, and preparations for the puja were also in place. But the atmosphere became so tense, that nobody was feeling happy. Everyone went away without eating the food.”

Police camp set up in the temple and patrolling of the village

According to the local people, a police contingent has set up camp in the temple. Due to this initiative of the police, the people of the Dalit community are able to visit the temple for darshan on Saturdays. Along with this, the police are also continuously patrolling the village.

“Sense of danger of something happening, difficulty sleeping”

One Dalit family said, “Since the temple entry, various things are being said about the Dalit families.” They are alleging that the savarnas are waiting for the police to withdraw. And after the police withdraw, the families of the Dalits who visited the temple may be in danger. Due to this fear, people are also feeling afraid to venture out of the house late at the night. People aren’t able to sleep thinking about all this. Neither are they being able to sleep properly, nor are they being able to eat.” SP Vedmurthyhas stated that at the present time, the situation in the village is calm. The villagers can visit the temple at any time. The police will protect them. However, to prevent any untoward incident, the village is being provided with police security.

यहां हिन्दी में भी पढ़ें- कर्नाटक : 8 दलितों को मंदिर में प्रवेश करवाने के लिए क्यों लगानी पड़ी धारा 144?

[Story Translated By Lotika Singha]

Satya Prakash Bharti
Satya Prakash Bharti
Satya Prakash Bharti, Journalist The Mooknayak

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