Ranchi : Relegated to the fringes of society, leprosy patients in Jharkhand have constructed a temple for themselves to avoid discrimination at places of worship.
They have built a Kali temple at Indira Nagar with their own money on a plot owned by Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC).
“Worshipping inside a temple and begging outside are two different things. People do not mind when we beg outside a temple, but a hue and cry is raised if we try to enter a temple,” said Sanju Mahto, a leprosy patient.
In many parts of India, leprosy affected people are often still discriminated against due to the mistaken belief that the disease cannot be cured and is infectious.
“We have been thrown out of temples on several occasions. We, therefore, called a meeting of our colony members and decided to construct our own temple,” Mahto said.
The neighbourhood where leprosy affected people reside, known as Indira Nagar, is situated on the HEC campus. The HEC management had leased out four acres of land for the colony. The population of Indira Nagar is around 1,500 while there are around 37,000 leprosy patients in the state.
The leprosy patients said they decided to build a temple to kill two birds with one stone – one to avoid discrimination at places of worship and second to fight the threat of displacement.
“The colony’s lease expired in 2004. The HEC management has not extended the lease,” said Sohanlal Mahto, another leprosy patient who is a resident of Indira Nagar.
“If the HEC tries to displace us, then the temple will protect us from displacement. It will be difficult for HEC to raze the temple to the ground. Goddess Kali will protect us from displacement,” he said.
The temple was constructed three months ago at a cost of Rs.83,000. The money was collected by the leprosy patients themselves.
“We did not ask for any donation. The temple was constructed with the money we collected by begging,” said Sheela Kisku. The leprosy affected not only contributed money but also worked as labourers. The temple was constructed in a month.
Indira Nagar has been in the news for other reasons. The first exclusive school for leprosy patients was opened there eight years ago. The school is up to Class 7. The teachers there are leprosy affected people and the students too are the children of patients.
“It was indeed a tough task to get our children admitted to the general school as they were discriminated against,” said Aneeta Devi, a mother of two.