Panaji, July 20 (IANS) Goa’s caste fault-lines surfaced during a congratulatory motion in the state assembly on Thursday, when Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar claimed that ‘bhats’ (Hindu priests) in the state do not visit people from lower castes.
Azgaonkar, who is elected to the state legislature from Pernem, the only assembly constituency in Goa which is reserved for the Scheduled Castes, also said that ‘bhats’ are in short supply, especially during festive seasons, and hoped that more priests would emerge from the Goa’s first Sanskrit college started by Brahmeshanand, along with 40 Sanskrit schools.
“There is a huge shortage of bhats and they do not go to the homes of people from some lower castes. But if those from the Dalit and Bahuhjan Samaj can be groomed as bhats by learning Sanskrit, it will be good for everyone. Society will be one and there will be no casteism,” Azgaonkar said.
“In Goa, it is the first time Swami Brahmeshanand has started a Sanskrit college. I am very happy because Sanskrit is learned by Brahmins and bhats, not by others. The rest cannot become Brahmins and bhat by learning Sanskrit, but Brahmeshanand has started a new era in Goa.”
“Goans should learn Sanskrit. Dalits and Bahujan Samaj (masses) should learn it, common people should learn it. And bhats should be groomed in the schools,” the minister added.
Brahmeshanand is the head of the Tamobhoomi matt in Kundaim village, over 30 km from Panaji, and has a large following among the members of the Other Backward Castes, also referred to as the Bahujan Samaj.
He also has a following among politicians across party lines.
Water Resources Minister Vinod Palienkar credited Brahmeshanand for the victories of all three legislators (including himself) from the Goa Forward Party, which is a part of the BJP-led ruling combine.