Dalits chose to stay away from entering the Muthalamman Temple at Uthapuram near here on Tuesday after the caste Hindus fled the village, leaving the temple locked.

A posse of police personnel and a riot-control vehicle were deployed in the village with the Superintendent of Police, Vijayendra Bidari, camping at the nearby Elumalai police station.

Dalit village leaders said they decided not to go to the temple as the police requested them to postpone their plan of worship till the elections were over. However, Mr. Bidari said the police were ready to provide protection to them. “The temple administration is with the caste Hindus and they have fled the village. They are not going to celebrate the temple festival (as scheduled on April 8, 9 and 10). If they come back and celebrate it at the temple, the Dalits will definitely be allowed to worship at the temple as per the High Court order,” he said.

The Dalits worshipped at the temple for the first time in November 2011 after nearly two decades amid police protection. Later, they participated in the kumbabhishekam of the temple in 2012.

However, with their Mariamman temple festival coinciding with the festival at Muthalamman temple, they did not go to the Muthalamman temple in 2013.

“Because of the drought, we could not mobilise funds for the Mariamman temple festival this year. So, we wanted to participate in the Muthalamman temple Panguni celebration,” another Dalit leader, K. Ponnaiah, said.

Meanwhile, the district police registered two cases against 40 persons belonging to the caste Hindu group on several charges including attempt to murder for throwing stones at the police outpost in the village on Monday. The incident occurred when revenue and police officials were talking with Dalit representatives.

A woman police constable, Kamatchi of Tamil Nadu Special Police, who was injured in the incident, had lodged one of the cases. Windshield of a government vehicle was damaged in the incident.

The accused were booked for rioting with deadly weapons, using criminal force to deter public servant from discharging his duty, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons and the provisions of Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act 1992, police said.