Monday, October 16, 2006

Women's Issues: Indian women win back right to prayer

Dalit women in the Bihar village of Chandan Nagar,in Purnea district,launched peaceful and successful protests against a temple priest to get back their rights to enter a temple and offer prayers.

The women started gheraoing (surrounding) temple priest Dinesh Mishra, who had barred their entry into the Durga temple, and demanded his removal. Daily India reports "the matter came to the notice of the administration and people around supported them."

At a public meeting the priest was removed and a Dalit was made head of the temple committee.

"The protest helped us to establish our rights," said Phuliya Devi, village body head of Abdullah Nagar Panchayat and leader of the group.Dalits were barred entry inside the Durga temple for over three years. Upper caste people have prohibited the entry of Dalits in many temples across the state. They are even attacked if they attempt to offer prayers.

* Dalit: In the Indian caste system, a Dalit, often called an untouchable, is a person who does not have any varnas. Varna refers to the Hindu belief that most humans were created from different parts of the body of the divinity Purusha and according to which part they were created from it defines their social standing for issues such as who they can marry and what jobs they can do. Dalits fall outside this system and have historically been prevented from doing any but the most menial jobs.They are also known as outcastes.