Dalits Enter Tamil Nadu Temple with Local Police’s Assistance for the First Time in 80 Years

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After "peace" meetings with the ruling castes arranged by the district government, Dalits gather in a local temple under heavy police supervision | PTI Photo

In the Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu, hundreds of members of Scheduled Castes were allowed to enter a temple for the first time thanks to a remarkable action by the district government and police. Apparently, the people haven’t been allowed into the temple for close to eight decades.

On January 29, late in the evening, members of the SC community, led by SP Karthikeyan and the district collector Murugesh, marched toward the Mariyamman Temple, which belongs to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department and is situated in Thandarampattu’s neighbouring village of Thenmudianur in Tiruvannamalai district. Yesterday, more than 150 people went to the temple under police protection and saw the deity.

Members of the SC community claim that they asked permission to participate in the temple’s recently held one-day Pongal festival but were turned down. In response, the irate members complained to the HR&CE division and requested entry into the temple.

According to a representative of the administration, when the authorities investigated the situation, they found that they had been denied access to the temple for 80 years.

On January 29, the village was brought under control by the police squad under the direction of District Superintendent of Police Karthikeyan. The dominant community apparently opposed Dalits accessing the temple, so they engaged in negotiations with them in the interim. But as soon as the Scheduled Caste people tried to enter, the populace started to resist. After two hours of talks failed to resolve the protesters’ differences with the authorities, the police constructed barricades and threatened to lock and shut the temple if Dalits were not permitted inside.

After eight decades, the followers finally caught a pleasant glimpse of the deity while carrying flowers for the deity and other temple supplies. Then, as a symbol of their happiness, they made and offered Pongal to the Goddess.

In a related incident, the district collector’s intervention in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukkottai district allowed members of the Dalit community to access the Ayyanar temple in Vengavayal hamlet a month ago. Collector Kavitha Ramu and SP Vandita Pande led the families to the Ayyanar Temple to worship despite the Dalits having been denied access to temples for years. They did this by responding to their complaints right away. The Adi Dravidars in Tamil Nadu’s Kallakurichi district’s Eduthavainatham hamlet initially entered Sri Varadharaja Perumal Temple a few weeks ago.

According to the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE), the village’s Varadharaja Perumal Temple dates back two centuries.

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