In what is seen as a move to bridge the caste divide in Kerala, state’s Devaswom board has recommended to appointing 36 non Brahmins, including six Dalits, as priests.
This is the first instance wherein the appointments for priests are followed as per the State’s reservation norms for recruitment of government staff. The criterion for selection of priests included a written test similar to Public Service Commission and an interview.
Speaking to the media, Chairman of Travancore Devaswom Board Rajagopalan Nair said “Earlier, we had some priests from backward communities who made it to the list through merit. The Travancore Devaswom came into existence in 1949 and the demand for reservation for Dalits in appointment of priests has been persisting for decades. Previous attempts to meet the demand had faced stiff resistance from certain quarters. But now we have made it a reality.” the chairman said.
The board has filled vacancies in different temples across the state through this recruitment.
The Travancore Devaswom Board is an autonomous body formed as per the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Act of 1950. Sabarimala Temple also falls under the administration of the board. The constitution of the board was based on the covenant entered into by the King of Travancore.
This move by the Deavswom Board comes in the wake of cases of temple priests fighting the management over discrimination on the basis of caste, despite a clearly ruling by Hon’ble Supreme Court.
The board had courted controversy when it had cancelled the appointment of a non-Brahmin priest in Chettikulangara Devi Temple in Alappuzha. Sudhi Kumar who belonged to Ezhava community had challenged the cancellation of his appointment with the Human Rights Commission of the State. The board had re-appointed him as keezshanti (junior priest).