Goodwill prevails as Dalits enter Uthapuram temple

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) Friday night.

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