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Tampa, FL (December 19, 2005) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expresses deep disapproval of the barring of entry to Scheduled Caste (Dalit) worshippers of the Jagannath temple in Keraragard, a village in the Indian state of Orissa. Newspaper reports say four Dalit women who entered the temple were beaten and later fined $22.24 by the village council ("Dalit Women Attacked / Fined for Entering Temple"). "This reprehensible and archaic tradition of disallowing Dalits into Hindu temples should be ended, and the District and State bureaucrats as well as politicians should be held accountable for the continuing practice of such illegal and unconstitutional acts," said Ramesh Rao, one of HAF's Executive Council members.
Sebati Muduli, Annapurna Mahali, Jharana Jena and Sakuntala Muduli - the four women who entered the temple -- should be provided immediate legal redress by the authorities. The village council's decree penalizing the women so that the village can spend the money on "temple purification rituals" is of utmost cruelty and the village council members who arrived at the decision should be immediately reprimanded for their illegal order. "While the police say they are probing the incident, it is urgent that these cases of discrimination be dealt with expeditiously and in a rigorous manner," said Dr. Mihir Meghani, President, Hindu American Foundation. "It ill-behooves India to allow such wanton acts of dehumanization in this day and age," said Dr. Meghani.