Tamil Nadu HR and CE Department clears position on Madurai village temple controversy, says it stands on government land and is open to all
The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) Department of the Tamil Nadu government has declared that the Sri Pekkaman Karuppasamy temple at Anaiyur Kokkulam village in Tirumangalam taluk in Madurai district, which is at the centre of a controversy over the denial of entry to Dalits, is situated on government `porombok’ land. Hence, it said, “all people irrespective of caste can enter and offer worship.”
The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) Department of the Tamil Nadu government has declared that the Sri Pekkaman Karuppasamy temple at Anaiyur Kokkulam village in Tirumangalam taluk in Madurai district, which is at the centre of a controversy over the denial of entry to Dalits, is situated on government `porombok’ land. Hence, it said, “all people irrespective of caste can enter and offer worship.” The controversy erupted when Dalits complained that they were being denied entry into the temple by the Most Backward caste group of Piramalai Kallars in the village.
In a detailed official letter to the Tahsildhar, Tirumangalam, dated July 27, 2021, the HR and CE Assistant Commissioner, Madurai, M. Vijayan, has clarified that the temple in the village has been recorded as “Arulmigu Karuppanaswamy temple” and that it is under the control of the HR and CE Department, though there has been no specific order so far from the HR and CE headquarters on its administration. The letter states that the temple and two wells are located on government land of 1.05 hectare of wet and 1.02 hectare of dry land as per the land records. The records further reveal that the temple is in possession of 1.15 hectare of wet land and 1.05 hectare of dry land.
The land on which the temple stands has been assigned to the name of “Arulmigu Karuppanaswamy temle”, while the land `owned by the temple’ has been assigned to “Karuppanaswamy temple’s temporary pujari.” The HR and CE Department has placed the details of land owned by the temple as per the land records. The letter further notes that the `pattas’ (ownership documents) for these lands had been allotted to the temple under the provisions of The Tamil Nadu Minor Inams (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1963 (Tamil Nadu Act 30 of 1963)
The HR and CE letter states that as per records the “Arulmigu Karuppanaswamy” temple is located on government land having the Survey Number 78. “But there are no records available with the department on the existence of ‘Sri Pekkaman Karuppasamy’ temple, also shown as located on the same Survey No 78,” the letter says and adds that it can be construed that the villagers had renamed the temple according to their wishes. Hence the order claims that the “Arulmigu Karuppanaswamy” temple has been renamed as Sri Pekkaman Karuppasamy” temple. The order suggests that both are one and the same.
Section 6 (20) of the HR and CE Act stipulates that “temple means a place by, whatever designation known, used as a place of public religious worship and dedicated to, or for the benefit of, or used as of right by, the Hindu community or of any section thereof, as a place of public religious worship.” The HR and CE letter further says that as per the rules `archakas’ or ‘pujaris’ alone would be allowed to perform pujas and other rituals in the sanctum sanctorium of all HR and CE-maintained temples. “There is no discrimination on the basis of caste among the devotees who offer worship at all the temples. Similarly, it says that it has not banned anyone from offering worship at the Arulmigu Karuppanaswamy Temple at Anaiyur Kokkulam village too, it says.
Reacting to the developments, `Kodi’ Chandrasekar, the village head who belongs to a Piramalai Kallar caste, told Frontline over phone that the villagers would obey the law of the land. “If the law wills, so be it. We are not going to prevent anyone from entering the temple. The God will take care of all. The issue, however, is not confined to the temple entry alone. They [the village Dalits] would now claim the rights to the immovable assets like land the temple owns,” he said.
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