Kerala Minister Radhakrishnan claims caste-based discrimination at temple event
Allegation raises questions over Kerala government’s claims of inclusivity
Kerala’s Minister for Temple Affairs, K. Radhakrishnan, has said he experienced caste-based discrimination during a recent temple event in the state. A prominent member of the CPI (M) state secretariat and a key figure representing the Dalit community in the party, Radhakrishnan strongly criticized the caste system within Hinduism, underlining that its creators aimed to divide society. Although he didn’t specify the temple where the discrimination occurred, he highlighted the pervasive issue.
Addressing a function of Velan Service Society, an organisation of people from the Scheduled Castes community in Kottayam on Sunday (September 17), Radhakrishnan said that although he faced discrimination at that temple, there was no discrimination towards the money he, and others like him, donated to the temple.
“I went to a temple for a function related to the inauguration. The chief priest came to me with a lamp for lighting. I thought the lamp was meant for me, but he (chief priest) did not hand it to me — he went and kindled the lamp,” Radhakrishnan said, adding that he kept away, assuming that it was part of the ritual at that temple. “The chief priest then handed over the light to the assistant priest. I thought that the light would be handed over to me thereafter, but they did not give me — instead placed the light on the floor,” he said.
‘No discrimination towards the money offered by the poor’
Radhakrishnan said that the priests wanted him to take up the light from the floor and kindle the lamp. “I just ignored them, letting them mind their business,” the Minister said. Later, in the presence of that chief priest, he asserted that there was no discrimination towards the money offered by the poor at the temple. “I don’t agree with going back to the days of the caste system. Those who created the caste system had a clear perspective: to keep people divided. They are (more) intelligent and smarter than people involved in the Chandrayaan mission,” he said.
The minister, however, has not yet named the temple or revealed anything about the function. A video of the incident has been circulating on social media, in which we can see him narrating the sequence of events. According to reports, it was a function held at Nambiathra Kovval Siva temple of Payyannur, Kannur, last January. The minister and the CPI (M) MLA T.I. Madhusoodanan refrained from lighting the lamp at the function and the minister openly expressed his displeasure there itself.
Radhakrishnan’s revelation of caste-based discrimination challenges the Kerala government’s claims of inclusivity and tolerance, raising concerns about the state’s commitment to its renaissance values. It has caused embarrassment to the CPI (M)-led LDF government in Kerala, which has celebrated the state’s progressive values and has been commended for its inclusive approach, including the appointment of Dalit priests in temples, through the Travancore Devaswom Board in 2018. Interestingly, many temples, including Sabarimala and Guruvayur under the state-run Devaswom boards, still appoint priests exclusively from the Brahmin community.