It allows Dalits access to Muthalamman temple

The long-standing dispute between Dalits and caste Hindus (Pillaimar) of Uthapuram village has been resolved, thanks to concerted efforts by the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, District Collector U. Sagayam and Superintendent of Police Asra Garg.

On October 15, a meeting was organised at which Mr. Garg, the Additional Deputy Superintendent of Police and elders from both communities discussed the problems.

On Thursday (October 20), an interactive session was organised in the presence of Mr. Garg, where elders from both the communities signed an agreement. When contacted, Mr. Garg said, “It was a team effort and we wanted to solve this issue soon. I hope peace will return to the village.”

The agreement allows the Dalits access to the Muthalamman temple and paves the way for construction of a bus shelter near the temple for use by both sections. It also provides for the use of the pathway created after demolishing a wall dividing the two habitations.

It has been decided to drop the demand seeking separate access to the temple and jointly use the common entrance, withdraw cases filed against each other; maintain peace and work towards the development of the village.

Uthapuram village witnessed three major caste clashes in 1948, 1964 and 1989. There were several casualties on all the three occasions. Many cases were filed. Many efforts to conduct peace talks had failed.

The focal point of the dispute was the denial of right to Dalits to worship at the Muthalamman temple. The caste Hindus had built a compound wall around the temple and the tree preventing the entry of Dalits.

The Dalits were also not allowed to stand on the main road, under the shade of a peepal tree, for boarding buses besides being barred from celebrating the temple festival by decorating the streets.

The animosity reached a high when caste Hindus constructed a lengthy wall separating the entire Dalit community from their residences in 1989. A portion of the wall was demolished on May 6, 2008, after the intervention of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and human rights organisations.

P. Sampath of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front told The Hindu that it was a big victory and a turning point in the lives of the Dalits of the village. “We appreciate Mr. Garg and other officials who took concerted efforts to bring an amicable solution and we expect the agreement to be implemented without delay.”

Members of both the castes are small and marginal farmers but are divided along caste lines. This effort could bring in the much needed class consolidation to move forward together, he said.

The TNUEF also appreciated the role of The Hindu in highlighting the plight of the Dalits and for bringing the issue to light.