Dispatches

Dalits enter Madurai village temple with police protection

Dalits of Anaiyur Kokkulam village in Madurai district inside the Sri Pekkaman Karuppasamy alias Karuppannaswamy temple on July 30.
Ilangovan Rajasekaran 30 July 2021 19:21 IST
Updated: 30 July 2021 21:36 IST

The Dalits of Anaiyur Kokkulam village in Tirumangalam taluk of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu, who had been fighting for years to restore their traditional right of entering the Sri Pekkaman Karuppasamy alias Arulmigu Karupannaswamy temple in the village, entered the temple successfully on July 30 despite stiff resistance from the Most Backward Caste group of Piramalai Kallars, who control the temple.

Around 50 members of the Hindu Scheduled Caste Parayas entered the temple with police protection and offered worship around 4.30 p.m. on July 30. The Dalits had planned to force their way into the temple on July 31, when the annual Adi festival of the temple was supposed to begin with a flag hoisting ceremony. As Revenue and Police officials feared a serious law and order situation on that day, they advanced the temple entry programme and led a group of 50 Dalits into the temple on July 30 itself.

As the Dalits entered the temple, the caste Hindus in the village stayed away from the temple premises. Even the temple pujari (purohit), Muthaiah, who is a Dalit, deserted his post. Despite repeated requests from the district officials, the pujari refused to come to perform pujas for the Dalits, claiming that it would “anger the gods”. The officials then brought his elder brother to the temple to perform the pujas.

The Dalits had also approached the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court seeking a direction to the district administration to facilitate their entry into the temple. Many organisations had also staged an agitation in Madurai in support of the Dalits’ demand. The court asked the Madurai district administration to submit a report on it. Tirumangalam tahsildhar A. Anandakrishnan had sought a clarification from the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, Madurai, on the status of the temple, which the Piramalai Kallars claimed as theirs. The HR and CE Department clarified in a letter that the temple was situated on `government land’ and fell under its classification of `small temples’. It was a HR and CE temple, it clarified.

The tahsildhar, based on the depositions of warring groups and the HR and CE Department’s letter, issued an order that as the temple belonged to the HR and CE Department, no one should be discriminated against on caste basis and prevented from entering the temple. He also issued an instruction that all devotees should offer worship as per COVID restrictions. Accordingly, police took the Dalits into the temple in small groups.

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