'There is need for Brahmins to change too'

Published: Monday, Sep 6, 2010, 10:33 IST
By M Raghuram | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

He has been known as a crusader for the unification of the Hindu
sects. He is renowned for breaking old customs, and opening the doors
of temples to dalit devotees who were earlier barred entry.

As the senior swamiji of Udupi Pejavar Math, Vishwesha Thirtha,
celebrates the Chaturmasya at Mysore, DNA had a word with him.

Is conversion of Hindus to other faiths a matter of worry for you? You
have been campaigning for the unification of the Hindu sects since
1952; and you have courted the wrath of hardliners by opening temple
doors to dalit worshippers.
A major portion of Hindu society has been alienated from mainline
Hindu culture. Dalits have been marginalised for centuries.

This discrimination has led many dalit worshippers to other religions,
where they have been promised greater dignity. My endeavour is to
empower the dalits, so that they do not, anymore, need to seek
recourse to any other religious group.

I am a sanyasi, and I have no means of politically or economically
empowering anyone. I hope that the people who hold the reins of power
will understand the need for granting the dalits greater dignity.

How will you integrate the dalits into mainstream Hindu society, when
political parties have been using dalit issues just to garner votes?
I have no illusions about being able to usher in changes in the
political culture.

But I do have a clear vision of what is possible for me to do. I will
take up padayatras in every dalit colony in the country. We will go
and appeal to them to come to the temples. I will appeal to them to
actively take part in every temple festival, and so ease dalits into
the mainstream. The upper castes too should be part of this process.

How would you respond to the issue of whether dalits need to be forced
to accede to a Brahmin viewpoint?
The dalits should retain their own identity. They have a religious
identity that is integral to the larger Hindu social structure.

Brahminism is one aspect of Hinduism, which is itself part of a larger
entity. There is need for the dalits to feel better integrated into
the Hindu religious and social fabric, and for upper caste Hindus to
look at dalits with a changed heart.

What are your views on cow slaughter?
The framers of our constitution, headed by Dr BR Ambedkar, who
championed the cause of dalits, enshrined the need for banning the
slaughter of milch animals for meat. Those who advocate the slaughter
of milch animals should understand the religious sentiment of the
majority community. If there is a livelihood issue here, I would
appeal that other animals be slaughtered for meat instead.

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