Dalits, upper castes face-off on temple entry
Express News Service Posted online: Tue Feb 01 2011, 11:00 hrs
Chennai : Uthapuram, a nondescript village near Madurai that became
infamous over an 'untouchability wall', is in news again — this time
following tension between Dalits and upper caste Hindus over a temple
where the backward community is denied entry.
The Muthalamman temple, built and maintained by upper caste Hindus,
has always been out of bounds for the Dalits, and has been the cause
of skirmishes between the two communities.
A portion of the wall was demolished following protests by the Dalits
led by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), a
CPM-backed outfit, sometime back.
The Dalits had then demanded that the temple be thrown open to
everybody. But the community that owned the temple had opposed the
Taking up the cause of the Dalits again, the TNUEF and the CPM have
demanded that the temple doors should be thrown open to the backward
castes and also announced a temple-entry agitation on Monday.
After the Marxists took up the issue, the upper castes formed another
group to 'protect' the temple, leading to tension in the area.
The district collector issued prohibitory orders in Uthapuram village
and the surrounding areas. A large contingent of police was deployed
to prevent any untoward incident.
Despite warnings and requests from the district administration, the
party cadres, local Dalits and activists on Monday tried to forcefully
enter the temple.
Hundreds of people led by party MLA K Mahendran tried to enter the
temple premises but were prevented by the police, resulting in a
scuffle. Over a hundred people were arrested.
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