Agnivesh warns of agitation

Hindustan Times, New Delhi

NEW DELHI:Swami Agnivesh who recently led a padyatra to the Nathdwara temple near Udaipur to protest against the alleged ban on entry of Harijans into the temple said here today that if Harijans are not permitted in the temple within a month an agitation against untouchability will be launched. Swami Agnivesh said it was shocking that in the name of religion and temple, untouchability was allowed to flourish. He said the Nathdwara temple which is one of the richest temples in North India barred entry to Harjans. This not only violates the Indian Constitution but also goes against the policies of the Government which ensures equality for all irrespective of caste, creed or religion, Swami Agnivesh said.

He alleged that the Rajasthan Government was tacitly abetting this practice in the temple. It is shocking that with an annual income of over Rs. 2.5 crore the temple authorities had no account of the same. Nor did they run any charitable institutions like those run by other temple authorities like Tirupati, he said.

In his recent march he and his followers were not allowed to go to the temple. The local authorities arrested the marchers instead of taking any action against those who violated the Constitution and perpetuated the social evil of untouchability, the Swami said. He alleged that a fundamentalist group called Shiv Dal has sprung up in the vicinity of the temple and is headed by senior Government officials. Swami Agnivesh alleged that the group perpetuated untouchability. If Harijans are not allowed entry within the temple till August 15 protest day against the same will be observed on Oct. 2 on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary and the death anniversary of Jagjivan Ram.

On the day thousands of Harijans and others will collect at Udaipur and march to the Nathdwara temple. A protest week will be held from Oct. 2 all over the country where members of the backward community are denied entry to places of worship because of their caste or creed, he said.

He called on the people to condemn the practice of untouchability and urged the Government to take appropriate action so that all are treated with equality.