A 100 sq.ft. temple on Jeeva Street at Singanallur here was demolished on Monday to enable full use of the street by a colony of Dalit families. The demolition, under police protection, opened up vehicle movement to the colony.
On January 30, authorities had demolished a wall that blocked access to the arterial Kamaraj Road for 58 Dalit families of Thanthai Periyar Colony. It was allegedly built across Jeeva Street to separate the colony of Dalits from a residential area of caste Hindus. The Dalits alleged that it was built 19 years ago to ensure that they did not pass through the colony of caste Hindus.
Though the wall was demolished, the temple was left alone in the face of a protest by Hindu outfits.
The authorities wanted to relocate it only on the basis of consensus. It had held talks last week on shifting the temple that was located in the colony of the caste Hindus.
Supervised by senior officials, a special demolition squad of the civic body removed the structure after the idol of Lord Vinayaka was relocated and consecrated on a platform near an Amman temple. There was no resistance.
“First, the wall that stood as a symbol of discrimination for many years was demolished. Now, the temple also has been removed. Justice has been rendered to us,” said V. Rajan, a resident of the Dalit colony.
“The younger generation in the colony was determined to do away with the discrimination that our elders had to put up with,” the 37-year-old Mr. Rajan said. “More than the mere physical block created by the wall, the discrimination it symbolised hurt us.”
State convenor of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front P. Sampath appreciated the State government’s speedy action to remove the wall and the temple.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary N. Varadarajan welcomed the shifting of the idol. He had written to Chief Minister M. Karunandhi on Sunday seeking the removal of the temple. “But, this is only one of the many instances of discrimination against Dalits across the State. The government should constitute a committee to study various forms of untouchability and take appropriate action.”
District convenor of the Front, U.K. Sivagnanam, alleged that the temple was being used as a cattle shed. It was made into a temple only to block the road. “It was removed on Monday only because there was no proper response from the other side [the caste Hindus] to the proposal for re-location.”
On the lack of resistance to the demolition of the temple, he said: “Not all of them [the caste-Hindus] were in favour of blocking the way to the Dalit colony. Only a few were against removing the wall and the temple.” Mr. Rajan said: “Earlier, rushing sick people to hospitals was a difficult task because the only route available to Kamaraj Road was a very narrow street. The removal of the wall and the temple on Jeeva Street is certainly a solution.”