Caste Hindus, Dalits stride towards peace

Representatives of both sides have approached police for withdrawal of cases

Published - February 15, 2012 02:34 am IST - MADURAI:

In a significant move, the caste Hindus and Dalits of Uthapuram village, who fought over the ‘wall of untouchability', have taken the next step forward to sinking their long-drawn enmity and embrace peace.

Representatives of both sides on Tuesday jointly met Deputy Inspector General of Police (Madurai), B. Bala Naga Devi, and Superintendent of Police, Asra Garg, for the withdrawal of cases registered against the people of both sides.

Some 30 cases are pending against both sides since 2005, the DIG told reporters. They include cases for attempt to murder, those under the Explosives Act and Prevention of Atrocities (Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes) Act.

“We will follow due procedures of law to withdraw all the cases.”

This is the second major step both sides have taken to bring about peace after the caste Hindus allowed Dalits to enter the Muthalamman temple in the presence of Mr. Garg on November 10 last year.

“This is part of the peace agreement reached by both parties on October 20, 2011,” Mr. Garg said. Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionary Chinmaya Somasundaram, who, along with former Aavin General Manager K. Athimoolam brokered the peace, said that people of both sides had suffered a lot socially and economically ever since the fresh bout of tension in the village near Usilampatti in recent years.

The ‘wall of untouchability' on a common pathway dividing the Dalits from caste Hindus was demolished by the district administration in 2008. “We (caste Hindus) are ready to allow people of all communities into our temple. This peace process has given the village a new lease of life,” said an auditor and leader of the caste Hindus, B. Murugesan.

“We (people of both the sides) have realised that we cannot fight each other forever,” Dalit leader K. Ponnaiah said. “Though not all the people of the caste Hindus were happy about our entry into the temple, we were, indeed, given a warm welcome by some of them.”

Both want the State government to expedite development works such as the construction of a bus shelter and diversion of sewerage lines that drain sewage into the Dalit areas.

Asked about the main bone of contention of the Dalits – right to worship in the temple – Mr. Garg said that the temple was under construction and soon kumbabhishekam would be performed. “After that both the parties can enter it.” . On allowing the Dalits to use vehicles on the common pathway, Additional Superintendent of Police A. Myil Vaganan said that the pathway was being put to maximum use and was open for Dalits too. “There are some encroachments on it. Once it is widened, bigger vehicles can be allowed.”

Mr. Garg said that the police pickets would stay as a precautionary measure.

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