Dalits enter Amman temple in Tiruvannamalai for first time in 70 years

Dalit community members of Thenmudiyanur village entered the Sri Muthalamman Temple for the first time in the 70 years since the temple has been built; 300 police personnel were deployed; some caste Hindu communities protested but were pacified by the police

Nearly 1,000 Dalits cooked Pongal and entered the 70-year-old Muthumariamman Temple at Thenmudiyur village in Thandarampattu taluk in Tiruvannamalai district on Monday with police protection. Though it was the practice to allow each community to participate in the Pongal festivities in the temple, Dalits were prevented from entering the temple for long.

Amid police protection, Dalit community members, including women and children from the village, carrying garlands and fruits entered the temple, which is under the administration of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department, and offered worship. “We (Dalits) were not allowed inside the temple since it was built some 70 years ago. We thank the district administration and the police for ensuring social justice to us.” said K. Mayandi, a resident.

The village consists of 1,700 families, of which 500 families are of Dalits, while the rest are caste Hindus.

Police said as per tradition, rituals are done by 12 communities at the temple in the village after the Pongal festival every year. Each community is given one slot a day to perform their rituals. Accordingly, all communities in the village got their slot, except for the Dalits.

The Dalit community petitioned the district administration and police seeking an intervention into the issue. Following this, a peace meeting with both sides of the village was held, and it was explained to all that no one had the right to prevent anyone from worshipping at the temple. Dalits were then given the slot on January 30 (Monday) to conduct their rituals at the temple.

However, members of caste Hindu communities, mostly women, started to gather in front of the temple from 5 a.m onwards on Monday, opposing the temple entry by the Dalits. Around 300 police personnel were deployed to prevent any untoward incidents.

Along with the Tiruvannamalai Superintendent of Police K. Karthikeyan, Collector B. Murugesh, and M.S. Muthusamy, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Vellore range, pacified the agitated residents.

Caste Hindus claim that they spearheaded the development of the temple and financially contributed to it, while no such efforts were made by the Dalits. However, officials said that such discriminatory practices were against the law as the temple falls under the HR&CE Department.

“The police will remain in the village till normalcy returns. They (Dalits) want to do their rituals every Tuesday and Friday. Peace talks are being held between them and other residents on the issue,” Mr. Karthikeyan told.

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