People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 08

February 19, 2012




CPI(M) to Fight Pankti Bheda


Kumar H


UDUPI in Karnataka has been known for a Sri Krishna temple and in recent times more well-known for communal activities of the Sangh Parivar. However, the same town saw on January 26 a different and inspiring spectacle, with CPI(M) cadres carrying red flags and shouting slogans against communalism and the caste system with its discriminative practices at temples. They moved out in a procession, daring the communal forces and asking the state government to take steps to stop the casteist and discriminatory practices.

It will be noted that the Karnataka state unit of the CPI(M) has decided to launch a resolute fight against the caste oppression and discrimination in the state in any form. The mobilisation in Udupi was a part of this very fight against the discriminative practices in the temples across Karnataka.


According to the CPI(M), caste discrimination exists in different forms over 250 temples in Karnataka. One of the forms of such discrimination is pankti bheda (different seating arrangements for Brahmins and non-Brahmins during meals), where the non-Brahmins and Brahmins cannot have the meal together. The Sri Krishna mutt temple in Udupi has also been following this inhuman and cruel practice.


On January 26, more than 3000 cadre of the CPI(M) from all the districts of Karnataka gathered in Udupi to condemn the atrocious practice of the Sri Krishna mutt authorities. These CPI(M) cadres, full with grit and determination, belonged to different castes and religion groups but were united by the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and the resolve to fight for the cause.


Following the procession, a public meeting was organised around the Martyrs’ Memorial on Ajjarkad Grounds. Addressing the rally, CPI(M) state secretary former MLA, G V Srirama Reddy, noted that the caste discrimination is being practised at the temples on the one hand and, on the other hand, the ruling BJP has been striving to perpetuate such discriminative practices by taking actions against those who fight such discrimination. The regime has been seeking to implicate such people in false cases by alleging that they encourage social unrest by making provocative speeches. One may also note that the BJP government is carefully avoiding any step to arrest Dr Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat who has been openly making provocative and obscene speeches against the Muslims, even after an FIR was filed against him.


Reddy also ridiculed the statement of the higher education minister V S Acharya that skin diseases could be cured by made snana --- a ritual in which members of the so-called lower castes roll over plantain leaves containing the leftovers of Brahmins after their meals. “If that is so, why should not Brahmins roll over the leaves? Why not close all the dermatology clinics in the state? It is shocking that Dr Acharya, a trained physician, should be saying such things,” Reddy said. He also asked the Pejavar matt seer, Swami Vishwesha Teertha, who also holds the post of vice president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, that instead of doing gimmicks like going to dalit houses and urging the Hindus to get united, Swamiji must first take step to eliminate such inhuman practices in his own mutt and temple.


CPI(M) state secretariat member G N Nagaraj exposed the Pejawar seer Sri Vishvesha Thirtha Swamiji’s dubious stand on pankti bheda. The Pejawar seer had once said that though he was against pankti bheda, the orthodox Brahmins were for it and that he could not do anything about it. This only reinforced the caste system. Nagaraj said it was very unfortunate to see caste discrimination in dining where great saints like Kanakadasa resisted the discriminative caste practices even 400 years ago. Nagaraj also quoted from Kanakadasa’s poem "Kula Kula Kula vendu hodedhada dhiri..…" which asked humans not to segregate themselves from one another, because every human is born the same way, everyone eats the same food and drinks the same water, and hence none is superior or inferior to one another. Nagaraj said that the ruling classes and the priestly sections only want to appropriate the fruits of the labour power of lower strata of the population including dalits but do not want to appreciate or properly reward that labour power; in fact they only denigrate the same labour power through the caste system. He added that pankti bheda is unconstitutional and illegal.


Another state secretariat member K Neela recalled the teachings of the Sufis and of the 12th century Sharanas who upheld the values of equality. State secretariat members K Sriyan, Central Committee member V J K Nair, K Shankar and B Madhava were also present on the occasion.


After the public meeting at Ajjarkadu grounds, the activists took out a procession to make an entry into the main Car Street to hold a protest action in front of the temple. The procession passed through the main streets of the town such as Taluk Office Road, Court Road, Kavi Muddana Road and Head Post Office, and finally reached the SMSP Sanskrit College, where the CPI(M) cadres were stopped by the police before entering into the Car Street. The protesters determined to “Occupy Car Street” in their bid to end the caste discrimination in form of pankti bheda. The protesters made an attempt to break the police barricade and then raised slogans while squatting at the entrance of the Car Street.


The party workers then gave three options to the police: 1) Allow them to go to the temple and press their demand, 2) Ask the temple authority come and assure them that such discriminative practices would be stopped, or 3) Arrest the protestors.


The protest continued for more than an hour at the entrance of the Car Street. Speaking on the occasion, G V Srirama Reddy said the communists have been never afraid of arrests and have always been ready sacrifice anything in their fight against such evil social practices. In this connection, he mentioned how and why prominent communist leader late Comrade A K Gopalan spent 22 years in jail and was still behind the bars when India got independence on August 15, 1947.


Finally, many cadres were arrested by the police but were released later.


The procession marked the historic beginning of a struggle against casteism, untouchability and other discriminative practices in the temples and elsewhere in the state of Karnataka.