Minati Singha, TNN 12 September 2009, 11:05pm IST BHUBANESWAR: Activists fighting for rights of the physically-challenged on Saturday demanded that wheelchairs be allowed inside the Jagannath temple like it is in other pilgrimages of the country. Priests do not allow people on wheelchairs or with crutches inside the temple as they believe that such equipment are impure. “This violates religious rights of people with disability, which is a fundamental right. They must be allowed to worship the way they want to,” said advocate Mrinalini Padhi, a Cuttack-based social activist and lawyer, who has taken the lead in the campaign. This not only prevents the disabled from entering the temple but also patients and the aged.
Recollecting an embarrassing experience, Shruti Mohapatra, a disability rights activist and also a wheelchair-bound person said, “A priest told me that my disability was due to the sins I committed in my last birth and I should not sin more by entering the temple. It will be better if I go back.” “This is not only undignified but also painful for a person with disability to be carried by four persons into the temple,” she said. The activists said though they have written to the temple administration many times about it, there has been no response. So a group of wheelchair-bound devotees would go to the temple on October 2 and request the authorities to allow them into the temple. “Filing a PIL would be the easiest option but we want the temple authorities to understand the issue and religious sentiments of the people with disability,” said Padhi.
The activists said while most of the famous pilgrimage places like Sidhhi Vinayak temple, Shridi Sai temple, Vaishno Devi and Akshardham temple have access to wheelchairs, not a single temple in Orissa has this facility.