Goodwill prevails as Dalits enter Uthapuram temple
Chennai, Nov 12, DHNS:
The caste conflict that existed in Uthapuram in Tamil Nadu's Madurai
district between the 'Pillaimar' caste Hindus and the Dalits was
little known outside the confines of the village that no one had even
a whiff of it until the CPM stumbled upon it.
With assistance from Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front
(TNUEF), the Marxists had been holding a sustained campaign to
demolish the deeply entrenched caste divide that kept the Dalits
outside the areas occupied by the caste Hindus.
However, things got blown over when CPM General Secretary Prakash
Karat visited the village in June 2008. The main plank of the Marxist
campaign was to restore the Dalit's rights to worship at the
Muthalamman Temple in the village, controlled by the Hindus.
With the support of the state government, the campaign won a partial
victory when a ban on the Dalits to enter through the Hindu areas was
lifted, saving them the ordeal of taking a 2.5 km circuitous route to
exit and enter the village for their daily chores. Opposed to this
move, many of the 'Pillaimar' families have even shifted their
residence to a nearby hillock as they still consider proximity to
dalits unacceptable. A permanent police picket had also been posted at
the village to avert clashes.
Long years of mutual suspicion though, has become a thing of the past
since Thursday evening with a mutual rapprochement between the two
Communities that enabled the entry of the Dalits to their
long-cherished 'Muthalamman Temple' in Uthapuram.
Sources in Uthapuram told Deccan Herald over telephone on Friday that
the 'historic Temple entry' by the Dalits was made possible by a
peace pact, mediated by the Madurai District Collector, U Sagayam, and
Superintendent of Police, Asra Garg, reached between the communities
on October 20.
The first group of 11 Dalit in the village led by their elders K
Ponnaiah and Sankaralingam, were received by the upper caste Hindus
near the Temple shaded by a huge peepul tree, and taken inside for a
special 'Pooja' on Friday evening.
The Dalits offered a garland, coconuts and fruits to the goddess,
popularly also known as 'Mariamma', which was followed by the priest
performing the 'Pooja' for the welfare of all the people, sources
said. Outside the Temple, the SP, Asra Garg along with a large posse
of cops waited patiently in a precautionary gesture, as the village
witnessed the historical event. "We are entering the temple premises
for the first time after 1989," said Ponniah.
The right to enter the temple and perform their traditional rituals
has been a long-pending demand of the local Dalits, which was made
possible on the auspicious occasion of 'Ippasi Pournami (full moon)
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