3rd August 2023 Mumbai: People from the Dalit community on Wednesday entered the local Mariamman temple at Chellankuppam village in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvannamalai district for the first time in more than half a century.Around 250 people, belonging to dozens of Dalit families from the area, stepped into the temple under police protection.
Dalit Community vs Vanniyar Community
The temple entry Issue had come to the fore following a tussle between two former schoolmates – one from the Dalit community and the other from the Vanniyar community – that took place in July after an argument they had on social media regarding Dalits’ right to enter the temple. The issue then escalated into clashes between the two communities.
Soon after, Dalits from the village petitioned district revenue officials and the police, demanding access to the temple. They also declared that they would enter the temple on August 2 (Wednesday). This prompted a large police contingent, led by DIG (Vellore range) M S Muthusamy, to be posted in the area to maintain law and order.
In Chellankuppam village, which has a total of around 1,300 families, Dalits are a minority.
Call for government actionThe Federal contacted Sudharshan of the HR&CE department as the temple has been under its control for the last three decades, but he refused to comment on the allegations. “The keys to the temple are with the inspector. There are several internal factors and the law and order situation that we need to consider. We are trying to find an amicable solution and we hope to open the temple soon,” he said.
Murugan had a question for the state government and police
“How is shutting the temple a just solution? Let the doors be open for all. And, if chaos breaks out, let the police investigate and arrest the violator. This will send a strong message that the caste order has been quashed.”
A positive change after a decade
The event is a sign of positive change and a cause for celebration. But it is also a stark and shameful reminder that nearly 100 years after the Temple Entry movement in the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore, there are still places in India where Dalits are denied entry and need police protection to do so. Authorities should find out if there are more such temples and take similar steps to enforce change.
After having been denied entry for so long, on Wednesday, Dalit families entered the temple carrying garlands and fruits, offered prayers, and cooked pongal as the district administration ensured protection.
By ASC Priya