High Court intervention saw the filing of case

A twenty-year-old Dalit who was working as a priest in a local temple was assaulted after he objected to the efforts asking him to be absent on auspicious occasions and festival times as it was alleged that devotees felt hesitant to visit a temple where Dalit was a priest.

S. Nagamuthu (22) of T. Kallupatti village coming under Periyakulam circle in Theni District had been working as a priest in the Kailasanathar Malaikoil for the last 7 years. He was assisting the main priest there and at times when the former was absent he used to conduct puja.

However, during the last two years the temple executive Palanisamy had been telling him that since he was a Dalit (Adi Dravidar) caste people were hesitating to come to the temple. The temple executive asked him to avoid coming to the temple during festival and other auspicious occasions. Nagamuthu objected to this stating that he had been coming to the temple since he was a kid. And on May, 5, 2012, he was prevented from entering the temple by Palanisamy and his relative Venkatasamy and both allegedly abused him by calling his caste name and assaulted him.

Nagamuthu had approached the Thenkarai police to register a complaint and file an FIR against the two. The police received the complaint and he was given the acknowledgement receipt without cases being filed. Meanwhile, Nagamuthu’s father Subburaj was asked by a few caste Hindus including the Periyakulam town panchayat president to withdraw the complaint. Nagamuthu then had approached the DSP who had allegedly asked him to withdraw the complaint stating that ‘you cannot do anything against the bigwigs’.

Petition filed in High Court

As the police refused to register the case, Nagamuthu had approached Evidence, a NGO based in Madurai. They intervened by filing a petition in the Madras High Court, Madurai which after hearing the petition on 31.8.2012 had asked the police to file a case. And on September, 2, 2012, the Thenkarai police filed cases under sections 294(b), 323, 506(1) of the Indian Penal Code and under section 3(1)(10) of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 against the accused.

Evidence organisation, which did a on-field study, found out that the temple a few years ago was a small temple with few devotees visiting it but now has been rebuilt with the involvement of an important political figure in the area and now the executives did not wish to have a Dalit taking care of the temple pujas.

Complaints have been forwarded to Director General of Police, and State Human Rights Commission, the NGO demanded that action should be taken against the erring police officials who failed to register a complaint and provide adequate security to the Dalit youth.

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