Madurai

Uthapuram tense as Dalits offer prayers in temple

Police personnel deployed in Uthapuram where tension prevailed between two groups over worshipping at Muthalamman temple, in Madurai district on Wednesday. (Above) Dalits offering prayers at the temple.— Photos: R. Ashok

Police personnel deployed in Uthapuram where tension prevailed between two groups over worshipping at Muthalamman temple, in Madurai district on Wednesday. (Above) Dalits offering prayers at the temple.— Photos: R. Ashok  

Caste Hindus protest garlanding of pipal tree; five vehicles burnt in violence.

Tension gripped Uthapuram when a garland offered by the Dalits to a pipal tree at the Muthalamman temple was pulled down by caste Hindus on Wednesday. A huge posse of police has been deployed in the village near Usilampatti as a precautionary measure.

The Dalits preferred a police complaint against the caste Hindus for practising untouchability.

The district administration had reversed its prohibitory order on celebration of the Muthalamman festival organised by the caste Hindus on Tuesday night after they pleaded for permission and agreed to allow the Dalits to offer worship at the temple.

“We had given the orders on the condition that the rights of the Dalits to worship at the temple should be upheld,” Usilampatti Revenue Divisional Officer M. Balasubramanian, said.

After permission was given, an earthen idol of Muthalamman was brought in procession from Elumalai on Tuesday night. In the morning, the caste Hindu devotees brought ‘mulaippari’ and offered prayers.

Later, some 40 Dalits led by C. Sankaralingam and Ponnaiah, came to the temple and worshipped the deity. Deeparathana and puja were performed by the priest amidst the ‘kulavai’ raised by the women devotees.

Just as they were coming out, the Dalits put two garlands on the pipal tree on the temple premises and offered their prayers. Suddenly, over a dozen of caste Hindus present at the temple objected to it.

Even as both sides started arguing over the issue and the police tried to pacify them, an unidentified person pulled down one of the two garlands and threw it on the ground.

This angered the Dalits, including women, who squatted on the Elumalai Road. However, a large posse of police managed to remove them and took them to their hamlet. Meanwhile, the police restored the garland on the Pipal tree.

While the caste Hindus demanded that the garlands be removed from the tree, Superintendent of Police Vijayendra Bidari said he could not allow any such thing and warned that those who tried to remove them would be arrested.

Later, the earthen idol and the sprouts were taken in procession and immersed in a nearby water body amidst police security. However, Dalit leader Sankaralingam said R. Muniyandi lodged a complaint with the police against caste Hindus for pulling down the garland put by them at the pipal tree.

Five vehicles set on fire

Meanwhile, people of two different groups from Elumalai and nearby Athankaraipatti clashed while completing the Muthalamman festival ritual of breaking the earthen idols near Elumalai on Wednesday evening. The police said five motorbikes and a cargo vehicle were set on fire. 

 The problem started when a chappal was thrown from the crowd from one group at another.  It led to a clash following which the police chased them away. Even as the crowd was melting, unidentified persons set on fire the vehicles.   

 The Deputy Inspector General of Police, Anand Kumar Somani and the Superintendent of Police, Vijayendra Bidari, rushed to the spot.  

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 2:17:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/uthapuram-tense-as-dalits-offer-prayers-in-temple/article7791274.ece

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