After generations untouchables enter Rajasthan temple

December 21st, 2008 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Alwar (Rajasthan), Dec 21 (IANS) There was a sense of pride, jubilation and certainly relief as 55-year-old Shanti Chamar finally entered a temple, performed puja and shared food with upper caste people here in an attempt to bring equality and social assimilation. Chamar and scores of scavengers tagged as untouchables by India’s orthodox caste system finally achieved their dream of social equality in this Rajasthan town.

“Since my birth I had not entered a temple. Today I feel liberated and have achieved what I have been dreaming for years,” she told IANS after coming out of Jagannath temple here.

“From now on, I will visit the temple every morning. Like Bramhins and other people, I can pray to my god,” she said wearing a clean sky-blue saree as nearly 50 other women of the same caste clapped to support her and express their feeling of “liberation”.

“We had left the dirty job (of cleaning toilets and carrying human excreta on the head) a couple of years back but the stigma still continued. It finally ended today (Sunday),” said Lalita, 40.

Lalita said her 14-year-old daughter has been complaining about their social status and now she can go to school and temple without anyone asking her about her family profession.

“I will tell all my fellow women who are still doing the job to quit and do some other work. But let me tell you, this is a dream come true,” said Nitu Goyar, 33.

Amid hundreds of people and scores of journalists from several states, these women shared offering from the temple and then lunch - dal, rice, bread and vegetable curry - with people in their village, Hajuri Gate.

Pandit Debanand Sharma, the chief priest of the temple, said: “This is definitely a great day for our people from all castes. I believe god is of everyone and no one should be discriminated.”

Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of the Sulabh International, an NGO working for the socio-economic emancipation of these scavengers, said: “For last four decades, I have been trying for this day. With this development, I can say Gandhiji’s dream of equality got fulfilled.”

“Though there is still a long way to go to dispel untouchability, this humble step is a step forward in this direction,” Pathak said.

Though Indian government claims that they have liberated most of the scavengers, there are thousands who still need social and economic upliftment.

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