MINNESOTA, USA, January 17, 2010: (HPI Note: Dr. Rambachan is Professor and Chair, Religion Department, St. Olaf College.) Although the exclusion of Dalits from places of Hindu worship ought to be a matter of deep concern and distress, there is hardly a ripple of protest in the sea of Hindu complacency. Shutting the doors of Hindu temples to Dalits stands in bewildering contrast to the anxiety in other religious traditions about dwindling numbers and the expenditure of considerable resources to attract the faithful. It should not surprise that those debarred from Hindu sanctums enter, in significant numbers, the open and inviting doors of others. Those in India and outside who are vociferous opponents of religious conversion must understand and acknowledge the Dalit experience of the Hindu tradition as oppressive and negating their dignity and self-worth. Conversion is a challenge for Hindus to consider the relationship between religious practice and systemic oppression. Exclusion from temples is only one manifestation of such oppression.
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