The 18th-century Mangueshi Temple at Manguehsi, Ponda, has gotten caught in a controversy for denying entry to a 17-year old wheelchair bound girl from Navi Mumbai into the temple. The Shree Manguesh temple in Ponda is one of the oldest and most important temples in Goa.
The incident happened on October 17 when Sanika Keskar, a Class XI humanities student of Mahatma Education Society in Panvel, came to offer prayers at Mangueshi Temple.
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According to the temple management, the temple structure can’t accommodate wheelchairs. This has therefore led Sanika’s mother, Shubada to start an online petition to ensure no other wheelchair user is denied entry.
The petition states that even though Sanika was welcomed inside the temple in Ponda, the temple security and administration denied her entry saying a wheelchair is a vehicle and vehicles aren’t allowed inside the temple.
Temple committee president C V Dhume said they haven’t taken any decision not to allow wheelchairs inside the temple. “But the structure makes such movement difficult, especially considering the temple gets around 3,000 visitors each day. Wheelchairs are allowed on the campus of the temple but the structure of the temple is such that it is too small and impossible to accommodate a wheelchair inside,” he said.
“I saw the pictures. She’s a small girl. Who would have objected to her being carried inside? We have many people who come on wheelchairs and we help carry them inside the temple, without their wheelchairs. The family can also make arrangements to put her on a small chair and carry her inside. We have no problems,” Dhume said.
“It’s not that we asked for any assistance in carrying or pushing the wheelchair. We are perfectly capable of managing it on our own. They just wouldn’t listen,” said Shubhada.
Sanika has been diagnosed with spina bifida, a debilitating spinal condition, since birth and is dependent on her wheelchair.
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Shubada said that the wheelchair is like an extended body part of Sanika. She also said that these kinds of children, like Sanika, are God’s gift and cannot be treated in such a manner. “We are not foreigners and didn’t come to appreciate the architecture of the temple. We are fully aware of the sanctity of the temple. We came to offer prayers.”
In her petition, Shubhada said the family has embarked on pilgrimages to various places with the wheelchair and have never been denied entry.
“People go out of their way to help no sooner they see someone with a wheelchair trying to enter. They even take us through a special entrance where there are ramps or fewer steps,” she said.
Sanika uses a wheelchair but she is very intelligent, her mother said. The confidence of children with disabilities can get affected by such instances, she said in her petition, adding that it shouldn’t be repeated in a day and age when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing forward the accessible India campaign.
Shubhada’s campaign has garnered more than 2,000 signatures online. Emails have also been sent out to the chief minister of Maharashtra and the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi, India.
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Source – TOI