Revenue, police and the Coimbatore Corporation authorities demolished a wall that had denied 58 Dalit families of Periyar Nagar direct access to the arterial Kamarajar Road in the city.
The wall was allegedly built by caste Hindus across the 30-ft-wide Jeeva Road that was supposed to link the colony with Kamarajar Road.
The colony is located in Ward No.10 near the Employees’ State Insurance Hospital to Kamarajar Road.
“The wall, built in 1990, was evidence of the prevalence of discrimination and untouchability,” said U.K. Sivagnanam, district convenor of the Untouchability Eradication Front. He had petitioned the authorities on Friday, demanding the removal of the wall.
According to Periyar Nagar residents, the government acquired land for their colony in 1989 and provided house site pattas to them. Caste Hindus living along the initial stretch of Jeeva Road had installed a Vinayakar idol in a small shed and built the wall behind it, exactly from where the colony began. The temple was used as a pretext for closing the road with a discriminatory attitude to prevent the Dalits from using Jeeva Road to reach Kamarajar Road through the area in which the caste Hindus resided, Mr. Sivagnanam alleged. The Dalits had used other routes to reach the main road for many years. But with more buildings coming up on open sites nearby, they were left with only a narrow street to reach the main road.
On Saturday morning, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi ordered the district administration to inquire into the issue and take immediate action.
Officials verified the records and confirmed that the temple and the wall encroached upon a scheme road. A group of women squatted in front of the earthmover in an attempt to prevent the demolition. As the earthmover began the demolition, the residents broke into a thunderous ovation. When the Corporation workers were removing the debris of the demolished wall, a group of Hindu outfit activists insisted that the temple should not be removed. This resulted in police mobilising more reinforcements.
The Dalits pointed out that they were not against the temple but only its location. Speaking to TheHindu, State convener of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front P. Sampath welcomed the action taken by the officials and added that the temple could be relocated with the consent of both sides.
Rajan, a resident of the colony, and some Dalit women said: “We are happy on getting this access to Kamarajar Road. This ends the circuitous route we had to take all these years. The removal of the wall has given us a feeling that we are also part of society.”