Dalits allege discrimination in celebrating temple festival

Say, they faced 13 types of discrimination by caste Hindus

Updated - July 24, 2016 06:01 am IST

Published - July 24, 2016 12:00 am IST - MANAMADURAI:

Alleging that they faced 13 types of discrimination during the annual Sri Muthumariamman Temple festival, Dalits of ‘Maravetti’ Karisalkulam in Manamadurai police station limits have sought the intervention of the district administration and police to ensure that they were allowed to celebrate the festival with equal rights and on a par with caste Hindus.

As six sects of caste Hindus gave it in writing that they would follow only the existing traditional system, the Dalits presented petitions to Collector S. Malarvizhi and Superintendent of Police Ziaul Haque, seeking their intervention, after failing to resolve the issue in a peace committee meeting chaired by the Tahsildar on July 4 .

The Dalits alleged that they were not allowed to contribute (Rs. 1,300 per family) for the festival and denied permission to take part in some important events such as ‘mulaipaari eduththal’ (taking sprouts or germination of nine grains in pots), the major event in the 10-day long festival, which begins on August 2. “We are prevented from preparation or serving food during ‘annadhanam’ and from performing ‘oyilattam’ and ‘kummi’ (folk dances) at the festival,” R Karuppasamy, who had been fighting for the rights of Dalits, said.

Dalits could offer worship but could not light camphor in a plate or directly garland the trishul. “We are also prevented from directly taking ‘thiruneer’ (sacred ash) from anywhere at the sanctum,” he said. “The height of discrimination is that we should not go anywhere near the place where ‘annadhanam’ is prepared,” he told The Hindu . Only the caste Hindus could prepare and serve it. Dalits who wanted to offer ‘annadhanam’ could donate only the money. “We cannot even buy rice and grocery items for it,” he said.

“After fighting for the rights for several years, only recently we were allowed to take part in fire walking, carry ‘theechatti’ (fire pot ceremony) and perform ‘angapradikshanam,’ he said.

Siranjeevi, who represented caste Hindus in the peace committee meeting, asserted that they could not deviate from the existing practice lest they would earn the wrath of the Goddess.

The local unit of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front and Communist Party of India (Marxist) have decided to stage a demonstration, in protest against the alleged discrimination on July 28.

When contacted, Collector S. Malarvizhi said that the issue was pending before the court with caste Hindus seeking a direction to allow them to celebrate the festival by following the conventional system. The district administration had taken a stand that the festival should be inclusive and celebrated by all, she said. They would, however, take a final decision after the court’s verdict, she added.

“The height of discrimination is we should not go near the place where food for ‘annadhanam’ is prepared”

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