Tension prevailed on Monday at Kalitheerthalkuppam, around 23 km from here, after a local office of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was torched on Sunday night, even as the party resolved to go ahead with its temple-entry plan on September 30.
The call was given by the Untouchability Eradication Front, a CPI(M) wing, to oppose caste Hindu groups for denying Dalits entry to the Draupathiamman temple in the village.
According to police sources, the protest was timed to coincide with the death anniversary of CPI(M) leader B. Srinivasa Rao, who had fought against oppression of the Dalits by caste Hindus in Thanjavur district.
A group of Vanniyar youths on Sunday met under the banner of Kudumba Vanniya Orunkinaippu Kuzhu and reportedly discussed measures to counter the programme, police sources said. Shortly thereafter, a group of 40 youths vandalised the Mannadipet commune panchayat CPI(M) committee office, located 500 meters away from the temple, and set afire the structure.
A resident of VBG Nagar said, “During a festival time, elders of the Vanniyar community used to gather at the temple entrance. Whenever they spot Dalits, they signal volunteers to bar them from entering. The Dalits are now going to a Mariamman temple nearby.”
A 68-year old Dalit farmer said, “Ten years ago it was a custom for village elders to invite everyone to participate in the festival. It is only in recent times, that a community-based organisation is prohibiting us from entering the temple.”
CPI(M) Puducherry unit secretary V. Perumal told The Hindu that the party was determined to go ahead with the plan to assert the rights of Dalits who were being discriminated in several ways in the Union Territory of Puducherry. “We will continue to fight against the practice of untouchability,” he said.