PURI: Two Iskcon devotees from Singapore and Australia were allegedly shoved out of the Jagannath temple on Thursday by a group of priests, for in their view, the visitors are non-Hindus. The priests reportedly nudged and even kicked the foreigners, who claimed themselves to be Hindus.
P Raman J (52) and Lee Chee Seng (36), however, chose not to report this to police fearing more trouble from their "tormentors". The priests denied the charges.
"According to their passports, P Raman J is from Australia and Seng is from Singapore," inspector-in-charge of Singhadwar police station M K Senapati said.
While the duo along with their relatives (who were Indians) was strolling around in the temple, some priests confronted them and asked them to reveal their religious identities. "Both claimed to be Hindus. Raman said he was born to a Punjabi couple, now settled in Australia. Then the priests brought the foreign pilgrims to us. We verified their passports, but could not ascertain whether they were really Hindus or not. Our job is not to confirm someone's religion. We just screened them and let them go," Senapati said.
The cop said he doesn't know whether the Iskcon devotees were really heckled by priests. The "unruly" attitude of some priests has brought a bad name to the temple here. "I don't think they (pilgrims) were heckled. Nor did they lodge any official complaint," the inspector said.
"We are tourists and did not want to get into any controversies. We were repeatedly saying that we were Hindus, but they weren't convinced," one of the devotees said. "Once we move out from here, we would definitely lodge a complaint with our embassies. We did not commit any crime by visiting the Jagannath temple," he added.
According to sources, the Singhadwar police have booked three priests for allegedly ill-treating and attacking pilgrims in the past one month.