Caste Hindus of Panthapuli near Sankarankovil left their hamlet and have settled down in a hillock nearby in protest against the preparations being made by the Dalits to celebrate the village temple festival.

Following differences of opinion between the Dalits and other Caste Hindus of Panthapuli over offering prayers in the 100-year old Kannanallur Mariamman Temple, the Dalits, who were allegedly prevented from entering the place of worship, filed a case against it in 2000. Though the trial court at Sankarankovil gave its verdict in favour of the Dalits, the respondents preferred an appeal, which is pending before the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court.

Meanwhile, the district administration, which tried its level best to bring about an amicable solution to this problem, was forced to seal the temple on September 27, 2008 after both sides refused to come down from their stance. Condemning it, the Dalits left Panthapuli on December 12, 2008 and settled down at Kaarisaaththaan hillock near their hamlet and returned home after three days following assurance from the officials that they would be allowed to enter the temple and to offer prayers.

Protesting it, the Caste Hindus left the village and settled down at Yettisery hillock and returned home within 24 hours. Against this backdrop, the temple was opened on December 24, 2008 in the presence of large number of police personnel and the Dalits were allowed to offer prayers even as others stayed away from the event.

Problem has resurfaced now as the Dalits want to conduct the temple festival, which triggered stiff opposition from other members, who argue that no festival should be conducted till the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court delivered its verdict. However, the Dalits started preparations for the temple festival celebrations.

Protesting it, the Caste Hindu families left Panthapuli with their cattle shortly before Sunday noon and settled down at Yettisery hillock and prepared their lunch in the mound.

“Even as a case pertaining to this temple dispute is pending before the court, nobody should be allowed offer ‘pongal'… We demand that the temple should be kept locked till the disagreement is resolved (by the court). We'll stay in the hillock till our genuine demand is met,” said K. Balasubramanian, a Caste Hindu from Panthapuli.

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