Trustee says ‘vehicles’ cannot be allowed entry
A trustee of Mangueshi Temple in South Goa stirred controversy on Monday by denying access to a wheelchair-bound girl from Mumbai.
The Disabilities Rights Association of Goa (DRAG) has demanded action against the trustee and forwarded the complaint lodged by the girl’s parents to the Superintendent of Police (South) and the Collector of South Goa.
The girl’s mother, Subhada Keskar, said the temple committee member, Anil Kenkre, prevented her daughter, Sanika Keskar, from entering the temple as its rules denied access to ‘vehicles’.
The complaint said: “Anil Kenkre told us we were not invited and welcome inside the temple. This is outright discrimination and abuse of the right of a physically challenged person. The action is a criminal offence under Section 92 (a) of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016.”
It further said that the trustee also violated Sanika’s right to worship, “which is a fundamental right under the Constitution of India.” The parents requested authorities to immediately register a criminal case against Mr. Kenkre under relevant sections of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 and the Indian Penal Code.
The DRAG also wrote to the Collectors of North Goa and South Goa, and the State Disability Commissioner requesting them to direct all heads of religious places of worship in their jurisdiction to ensure that the elderly and persons with disabilities are not denied entry citing aids and appliances used for their mobility. The DRAG also asked the authorities to ensure within six months that places of worship are made disabled-friendly as mandated under the Act.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kenkre denied the allegations. He said, “I don’t exactly remember the details of our conversation. We never deny permission to any person to enter the temple and pray. I only informed them that there is no facility to allow the wheelchair into the temple. It would be incorrect to say that we denied them access to the temple.”
Mr. Kenkre admitted that the temple was not disabled-friendly, but that had never stopped “persons with disabilities from coming to the temple and nobody has ever had any issues in entering it.”
‘An attitude problem’
Anuradha Joshi, State Disability Commissioner, confirmed on Monday that she had received the complaint and would visit the temple on Tuesday to probe the matter. Avelino de Sa, president of DRAG, said that an online petition demanding justice for Sanika had garnered over 2,200 signatures by Monday evening.
Mr. de Sa said, “The issue at hand is not one of lack of infrastructure, but an attitude problem of the temple trustee. This is evident from his statements such as ‘we have not invited you to the temple’ and ‘the wheelchair cannot be allowed in as it is a vehicle’.”