Untouchability row: Kerala minister misunderstood ritual, no discrimination shown against anyone, says priests association 

The state committee of the Akhila Kerala Thanthri Samajam said priests who are performing 'deva pujas' do not touch anyone, be it Brahmin or non-Brahmin, till the same gets over.

Published: 20th September 2023 12:33 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th September 2023 12:33 PM   |  A+A-

Minister K Radhakrishnan (Photo | A Sanesh, EPS)

Minister K Radhakrishnan (Photo | A Sanesh, EPS)


KANNUR: The alleged untouchability incident against Kerala Devaswom minister K Radhakrishnan was a 'misunderstanding' of the rituals and no individual is discriminated against in temples, an organisation of traditional high priests in the state said on Wednesday.

The state committee of the Akhila Kerala Thanthri Samajam said priests who are performing 'deva pujas' do not touch anyone, be it Brahmin or non-Brahmin, till the same gets over.

It wondered if there was any "ill intention" in stoking a controversy out of an issue, that it claimed "technically ended eight months ago" and alleged "an innocent act" was being used to create communal polarisation.

The Samajam is an association of traditional high priests who are the authority on the rites and rituals practiced in most of Kerala's shrines.

In the incident in question, the 'melshanti' (chief priest) -- who was performing a puja -- was asked in the last moment to come and light the lamp as the temple thanthri (traditional high priest) was absent.

After lighting the lamp, he went back to complete the puja and the same was misunderstood as untouchability by the minister and he expressed his displeasure on the spot, the priests' body said in a Facebook post.

At the same time, it questioned whether there was some "ill-intention" behind turning the incident -- which had "technically ended eight months ago" -- into a controversy now.

The organisation said that in Kerala culture, cleanliness observed in temples was purely spiritual and claimed it was not caste-based discrimination.

It said a serious case has been lodged against the two priests, who were working in a temple under the Malabar Devaswom Board, merely on the basis of their caste.

It further claimed that ignoring the reality, some people were insulting the temple's melshanti and his community based on the minister's statement.

"Such people are trying to misinterpret an innocent act and create communal tension in the society.

This can only be considered as a move for creating communal polarisation by claiming the presence of untouchability in Kerala," it contended in the post.

The priests urged devotees not to get involved in such "malicious" controversies aimed at disrupting the communal harmony in the society.

ALSO READ | V D Satheesan seeks action against temple priests who discriminated against Kerala Minister

On Tuesday evening, the CPI(M) state secretariat had condemned the incident and said it was shameful for Kerala.

The Left party said that at one time caste-based oppression, including untouchability was prevalent in Kerala, but it disappeared over time due to the Renaissance, nationalist and communist movements.

It also said social inequities that arose due to historical reasons are still prevalent and the government was working to find a solution for them.

The CPI(M) urged people to be vigilant against such practices and eradicate them.

Radhakrishnan, who hails from the Scheduled Caste community, had on Monday said two priests of a temple refused to hand over the small lamp they had brought to light the main lamp placed at the venue for marking the inauguration at the shrine.

Instead, they themselves lit the main lamp, and after that placed the small lamp on the ground, thinking that he would take it, he had alleged.

Though the minister didn't reveal the name of the shrine, news channels aired the visuals of the recent inauguration of "nadapandal" at a temple in Payyanur in Kannur district, in which the minister participated.

It could be seen in the visuals that the priests were not handing over the small lamp to the minister and placing it on the ground.

Radhakrishnan had later said caste system was a "stain" in the minds of certain people and it was not easy to remove it instantly.

The Devaswom minister had clarified he did not intend to turn the incident into a controversy and just tried to sensitise people about the social evil.

He had also reiterated that discrimination was shown only towards people and not money.

Radhakrishnan had also indicated he was not going to pursue any legal action against the discrimination he faced.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had condemned the alleged caste discrimination faced by his cabinet colleague and said follow-up action on the matter will be taken after discussing it with him.

Vijayan had termed as "shocking" Radhakrishnan's disclosure.

Leader of Opposition in the Kerala assembly V D Satheesan too had sought stringent action against the priests who allegedly discriminated against the minister.

The Congress leader said if anyone is trying to bring back untouchability, even after 100 years of the Vaikom Satyagraha, it has to be taken very seriously, and the government has to take stringent action against the people concerned.

Terming the incident as 'shocking and unfortunate', Satheeshan had also asked why the minister hid this fact for so long.

Radhakrishnan, a member of the central committee of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), is the Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes and Devaswoms.

He represents Chelakkara constituency of Thrissur district.

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  • P R V Raja

    In the background of the ongoing controversy over caste discrimination against the Devaswom Minister
    2 months ago reply
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