Brahmin priests demand expulsion of Dalit recently appointed to temple post in Kerala, suspend protest amid criticism

Accusing the Dalit priest of starting temple procedures late and staying away from duty, the AKSKU had announced indefinite hunger strike demanding his expulsion, only to be suspended later.
Yedu Krishnan was the  first among the six Dalit priests appointed by the Kerala government to take charge (Photo | Facebook/Rahul Easwar)
Yedu Krishnan was the first among the six Dalit priests appointed by the Kerala government to take charge (Photo | Facebook/Rahul Easwar)

A hunger strike that was announced yesterday by All Kerala Santhi Kshema Union (AKSKU), an organisation of Brahmin priests in Kerala, demanding the expulsion of a recently appointed Dalit priest, has been called off, amid criticism.

Malayalam media portals on Sunday reported that AKSKU, with the support of Yogakshemasabha – a Namboodiri Brahmin welfare association, would stage an indefinite hunger strike before the office of Thiruvalla Devaswom Assistant Commissioner from Monday morning, demanding that Yedu Krishnan, one among six Dalit priests appointed by the Kerala Government, recently, be fired.

Reports said that the AKSKU had accused Yedu Krishnan of starting the routine temple rituals late and going absent without leave, and not leaving anyone else in charge.

It was decided that AS Krishnan Namboodiri, General Secretary of the AKSKU would start fasting from 10 AM.

However, Yogakshemasabha told Express that the agitation has been suspended and denied any involvement in the event.

“It was the AKSKU that had announced the strike. We had no involvement in it. This confusion emerged because many members of our association are a part of AKSKU as well,” said E Krishnan Namboodiri, All India Brahmin Federation Executive member and Alappzuha District Secretary of the Yogakshemasabha. A press release clarifying their stand will be published, he said.

Krishnan Namboodiri said that the stir was called off as the Devaswom Ministry has promised to look into the accusations against Yedu Krishnan over neglecting his priestly duties.

Yedu Krishnan had told the media earlier that the allegations levelled against him were untrue. He clarified that he had submitted his leave application in writing beforehand, but his substitute was a few minutes late for duty as the person’s father had met with an accident. No major delays in the daily activities of the temple were caused. Yedu Krishnan was not available to respond today.

Minister extends support
Stating that the real reason behind the Brahmin priests’ intention to go on strike their reluctance to accept a person from the scheduled caste as a priest in a temple, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said, extending support to Yedu Krishnan. The Minister said temple procedures often start 10 or 15 minutes late due to personal reasons of the priests, but these organisations (AKSKU) have never bothered to agitate before.

Nevertheless, he said it would be looked into if Yedu Krishnan had been negligent about work on purpose.

Twenty-two-year-old Yedu Krishnan was one among six Dalit priests appointed by the Government of Kerala under the Travancore Devaswom Board, in a much-discussed revolutionary move. He was the first among the six to take charge when he assumed duties at the Manappuram Lord Shiva Temple near Thiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district.

A native of Thrissur district’s Koratty, Yedu is a post-graduate student of Sanskrit and has an experience of seven years in priesthood. 

Social media slammed the proposed protest
Following the news reports about the hunger strike, Facebook users from Kerala responded strongly against the agitators calling it the very latest incident exposing the casteist face of Kerala. “If the lower castes are not allowed to do pujas in temples, then the entire concept of Hindu unity put up by organisations like the Hindu Parliament (an organisation that says its stated objective is to unite all Hindus, regardless of caste) is a lie,” one user wrote.

“If Dalits are also Hindu community, then why can’t they be priests? Why should there be separate temples? This is exactly what casteism is,” another person responded.

Supporters of the agitation were asked by many people to show them which religious text of the Hindu religion bans lower castes from entering priesthood.

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The New Indian Express