NEW DELHI: Four Dalit women were not allowed to enter a temple in Karnataka, even though the temple authorities had no qualms in accepting money from them for festivities.

The temple in question is 2 km away from Haradanahalli, the native place of former Prime Minister of India H D Devegowda.

Shri Basaveshwara Temple at Sigaranhalli which was constructed in 2001, was visited by four dalit women on August 30 t0 perform a special pooja on behalf of Basaveshwara Stree Shakti Sangh, of which they were members. But they were asked to leave the premises by the upper caste people present there and later were asked to pay Rs 1000 as a fine for violating the sanctity of the temple.

Thayamma, 50, who was one of the four dalits who was barred from the temple, condemned the conduct of the upper caste. “ There were about nine women from the Vokkaliga community and four from Dalit families. Devaraja, a Vokkaliga, raised his voice opposing our entry into the temple. He said SCs are not allowed in the temple. I questioned him. He attempted to beat one of us,” she told reporters. Thayamma was once a member of the Hariharpur gram panchayat.

A day later, the members of the upper caste community convened a meeting and decided to impose an extra legal fine of a thousand rupees on all members of dalit community who were a part of the sacrilege. They also deliberated on starting with the purification of the temple after the supposed polluting of its premises.

Thayamma recalled another incident of debarring her from any use of temple, when in the year 2001 she was refused the access to community hall which she needed for her daughter’s marriage. “They did not handover the keys of the hall, though they had earlier agreed to rent it out. It was a tough time for me. I had to organize the marriage outside my house,” she said.

When the matter was communicated to N.R. Purushottam, district social welfare officer, he reportedly assured an investigation in the issue and to take necessary action, while acknowledging that dalits can’t be barred from entering the temple.