With the police pointing the finger at former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal in the 2015 police firing incident in Kotkapura which claimed two lives, the game of allegations and counter-allegations has begun. Last week, the Special Investigation Team filed a chargesheet in a Faridkot court claiming that the police firing (during the protests that followed the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari village) was a pre-planned handiwork of Mr. Badal, former DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim among others. The ruling Congress was quick to attack the Akali Dal with senior leader and Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa saying the “Panthic” mask was off the faces of the Badals and now the family must renounce politics. He asked Mr. Badal to step down as MP and also the chief of his party after being “exposed”. The SAD accused the Congress of indulging in a political vendetta and targeting the party leaders through the SIT. Terming the probe “politically motivated”, the Akali Dal questioned the credibility of the chargesheet. Senior leader Daljeet Cheema said “the chargesheet was signed by IG Kunwar Vijay Pratap of the SIT on May 23 though the model code was withdrawn on May 26. Notably, he was reappointed a member of the SIT team on May 27. It’s a clear case of fabrication of documents with mala fide intention.”“Not only this, other members of the SIT have also questioned the partisan role of the said officer and submitted their objections to the government in writing,” he said. The Akali Dal made it clear that it would not take this lying down. Mr. Cheema said it would challenge the chargesheet and demand the investigation be handed over to an independent agency headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Harpal Singh Cheema (AAP) also raised the issue of ‘objections’ against the IG. “The objections raised by the other members of the SIT against the IG at a time when ‘challan’ was filed against the accused in the court seems to be a mere design to derail the process of justice delivery and protect the high-profile accused,” he alleged.
Amidst of the Maalin tragedy, a historic development went unnoticed in Maharashtra. A path breaking leap that perhaps can be seen a strong step towards the annihilation of caste system and patriarchy that still rules the minds of India.For the first time in its history of almost nine centuries, Non-Brahmin and female priests performed the Pooja of Lord Vitthal and Rukhmini on Friday.The historic transition started with the Supreme Court verdict on January 15, 2014. The apex court had taken away the ancestral rights claimed by the Brahmin families, known as Badve and Utpat to appoint priests.After the verdict the temple trust interviewed 129 candidates for the post temple priests. Highlight of the selection process was that most of the candidates that appeared were non-Brahmins and even 16 women candidates were interviewed.Finally on Friday, five priests belonging to backward classes performed Pooja along with upper caste Brahmins at the historic Vitthal temple and 2 women priests performed pooja at the Rukhmini temple in Pandharpur.In a society that is still dominated by caste system and patriarchy, allowing women and people of lower castes to perform pooja at the temple may be seen as historic and pioneering by many. But those aware of the Maharashtra’s social essence will see this development as a perfect complement to the very quintessence of the medieval Bhakti movement.Poetry, literature and Social reforms flourished in the Bhakti movement. Saint Poet Dnyaneshwar (3th Century BC ) is seen as the pioneer of the Bhakti movement. Several great saint Poets Like Tukaram and Namdev were among others. All these saint poets worshipped Vitthal of Pandharpur.advertisementAt a time when caste system strongly dominated the society, these saints professed the message of equality. It was initially considered unorthodox, as it rebelled against caste distinctions and disregarded Brahmanic rituals which according to Bhakti saints were not necessary for salvation. In the course of time, however, owing to its immense popularity among the masses and even gaining royal patronage it became ‘orthodox’ and continues to be one of the most important modes of religious expression in modern India.The bhakti movement is also seen as a prominent emancipator movement against the Brahminical caste domination. The devotees and the proponents of the movements mostly hailed from Non Brahmin castes. Dnyaneshwar and Eknath were Brahmins but were strictly against caste supremacy. Progressive Thinker and saint Poet Tukaram belonged to the Kunbi Community. Chokha Mela hailed from the untouchable Mahar community. Similarly , Savata belonged to the Mali(Gardener) caste, Sena belonged to Nhavi (Barber) caste, Goroba was a Kumbhar (Potter),Namdev- a Shimpi (Tailor) and so on. Similarly, women Saint poets like Saint Sakhubai, Muktabai, Kanhopatra, Janabai contributed immensely to the Warkari Sect.Given the fact that the Bhakti movement was always above caste hierarchy and Brahmnical assertion, the new development in Vithhal temple of Pandharpur should be viewed as a continuation of the progressive thought that was professed by the great saint poets. From now on lower caste priests and women too have got the right to perform Pooja. A couple of years ago, another decision in Maharashtra was hailed by rationalist and that was allowing women into the main sanctorum of the Mahalakshmi temple in Kolhapur.Though caste system is abolished in India long ago , the discreet existence of the caste supremacy and patriarchy still hampers the social fabric of the country. But now the step to allow Lower castes and women to perform pooja in Pandharpur will be a giant leap in the long drawn efforts to annihilate caste from the society and giving women equal rights. The humanitarian message in the system is loud and clear, everybody is equal before the almighty. Just as Saint Chokha Mela who hailed from the untouchable caste wrote “Chokha Donga par bhaav naahi donga” which means Chokha may be from a inferior caste, but his devotion is not. Chokha Mela’s thoughts have been given justice in spirit after 900 years.