The Dalits of Chettipulam entered the Ekambareshwarar Temple to offer prayers, ushered in by the Collector and District Revenue Officer (DRO) amid considerable police security here on Tuesday.

It was decided at the peace talks held on Monday that the Collector would lead the Dalits’ entry into the temple.

Early in the day, arrangements were already made for the Dalits to offer special prayers. As the police and district administration officials waited outside the temple for the arrival of the Dalits, about 75 people from the Therkku Kaadu Dalit habitations were ferried in vans escorted by police personnel.

Hordes of women and men jostled each other as they crossed the threshold of the temple and walked towards the sanctum sanctorum with flowers, garlands and coconuts as offerings to the deity. As they craned their necks to catch a glimpse of their god, the DRO and the Collector personally collected their offerings and passed it on to the priest into the sanctum for special prayers.

While the local bigwigs including Chettipulam Panchayat President and Vice-Chairman of Vedaranyam Panchayat Union waited at the entrance to felicitate the Collector and District Revenue Officer, the officials stepped aside to personally usher the Dalits into the temple. Collector C. Munianathan and the DRO A. Annadurai also volunteered to serve prasadam to every Dalit inside the temple after the prayers.

As an aside, later, Mr. Munianathan expressed unequivocal displeasure to the Panchayat President and Vice Chairman, over the turn of affairs in the past fortnight. Such barbarism of discrimination has no place in this day and age, he said. He also appealed to the Dalits to function normally without any fear and assured them of all administrative support. Police personnel are slated to be stationed for a few more days to ensure normalcy.

The general folks of the village, other than the Dalits, were absent at the temple. Most of the men are said to be on the run, following the legal crackdown by police after the violence of October 14.

A fortnight ago, a temple entry move by Dalits initiated by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and led by the Revenue Divisional Officer had turned violent with attacks on security and government personnel by locals opposing the move.

Abhay Kumar Singh, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Thanjavur Range, Maheshwar Dayal, Superintendent of Police, Nagapattinam, Praveen Kumar Abinabu, Superintendent of Police, Thiruvarur, Rajendran, Revenue Divisional Officer, were among those present.

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