MADURAI, February 15, 2012
Caste Hindus, Dalits stride towards peace
Representatives of both sides have approached police for withdrawal of cases
In a significant move, the caste Hindus and Dalits of Uthapuram
village, who fought over the 'wall of untouchability', have taken the
next step forward to sinking their long-drawn enmity and embrace
Representatives of both sides on Tuesday jointly met Deputy Inspector
General of Police (Madurai), B. Bala Naga Devi, and Superintendent of
Police, Asra Garg, for the withdrawal of cases registered against the
people of both sides.
Some 30 cases are pending against both sides since 2005, the DIG told
reporters. They include cases for attempt to murder, those under the
Explosives Act and Prevention of Atrocities (Scheduled Caste and
Scheduled Tribes) Act.
"We will follow due procedures of law to withdraw all the cases."
This is the second major step both sides have taken to bring about
peace after the caste Hindus allowed Dalits to enter the Muthalamman
temple in the presence of Mr. Garg on November 10 last year.
"This is part of the peace agreement reached by both parties on
October 20, 2011," Mr. Garg said. Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionary
Chinmaya Somasundaram, who, along with former Aavin General Manager K.
Athimoolam brokered the peace, said that people of both sides had
suffered a lot socially and economically ever since the fresh bout of
tension in the village near Usilampatti in recent years.
The 'wall of untouchability' on a common pathway dividing the Dalits
from caste Hindus was demolished by the district administration in
2008. "We (caste Hindus) are ready to allow people of all communities
into our temple. This peace process has given the village a new lease
of life," said an auditor and leader of the caste Hindus, B.
"We (people of both the sides) have realised that we cannot fight each
other forever," Dalit leader K. Ponnaiah said. "Though not all the
people of the caste Hindus were happy about our entry into the temple,
we were, indeed, given a warm welcome by some of them."
Both want the State government to expedite development works such as
the construction of a bus shelter and diversion of sewerage lines that
drain sewage into the Dalit areas.
Asked about the main bone of contention of the Dalits – right to
worship in the temple – Mr. Garg said that the temple was under
construction and soon kumbabhishekam would be performed. "After that
both the parties can enter it." . On allowing the Dalits to use
vehicles on the common pathway, Additional Superintendent of Police A.
Myil Vaganan said that the pathway was being put to maximum use and
was open for Dalits too. "There are some encroachments on it. Once it
is widened, bigger vehicles can be allowed."
Mr. Garg said that the police pickets would stay as a precautionary measure.
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