Caste system a stain on minds of people; what we need is change, not controversy: Minister Radhakrishnan

K Radhakrishnan is Kerala's Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes & Tribes and Devaswoms. Photo: Screengrab/Manorama News

Kannur: Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan on Tuesday said his intention of disclosing the caste discrimination he faced at a recent temple event in the state was not to create controversy but to call for a much-needed change.

He said the caste system is a "stain" prevailing on the minds of certain people and that it isn't easy to remove it instantly.

Talking to reporters, the minister said: "Compared to many northern states, Kerala has come a long way in eliminating caste-based discrimination and the society here would not accept such evils at any cost today."

"It is not easy to change the mindset created by the caste system. It is a stain on the minds... It is not easy to remove it like a stain on clothes," he said.

Though the society in Kerala could change such a mindset to a great extent, it was still deeply ingrained in the minds of some individuals, he added.

The minister clarified that he did not intend to turn the incident into a controversy and only wished to sensitise people about the social evil.

He reiterated that discrimination was shown only towards people and not money. Radhakrishnan also indicated that he was not going to pursue any legal action against the discrimination he faced.

Radhakrishnan, who hails from the Scheduled Caste community, while attending an event on Sunday said two priests of a temple refused to hand over the small lamp they had brought to light the main lamp placed at the venue for marking the inauguration at the shrine. Instead, they themselves lit the main lamp, and after that placed the small lamp on the ground, thinking that he would take it, he had alleged.

Though the minister didn't reveal the name of the shrine, news channels aired the visuals of the recent inauguration of the 'nadapandal' at the Nambyathara Kovval Shiva temple in Payyannur in Kannur, in which the minister participated.

It could be seen in the visuals that the priests were not handing over the small lamp to the minister and placing it on the ground. Criticising the gesture, Payyannur MLA T A Madhusoodan said he also took part in the function and expressed his strong protest against it on the day itself. "The priests placed the fire lamp on the ground, but we didn't bother to take it. It is an unacceptable and immature act," he said.

Opposition leader V D Satheesan too reacted saying the caste discrimination against the minister was shocking.

Head priest's inexperience likely reason, no one to blame: Tantri

Temple tantri Padmanabhan Unni, responding to the controversy, clarified that there was no custom in place which prevented the priest from handing over the lamp to another person.

He said it could have been the inexperience of the head priest that led to the incident and that no one could be blamed in the matter.

"In any case, it was a distressing incident for both parties. There is no point pinning the blame on anyone," said the tantri.

He also said since he wasn't at the shrine when the incident occurred, further comments could not be made on the matter.

Radhakrishnan, a member of the central committee of the ruling CPM, is the Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes and Devaswoms. He represents the Chelakkara constituency of Thrissur district.

(With PTI inputs)

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