Temple entry: An unending battle for Dalits in Melpathi

Express News Service

VILLUPURAM:  It seems an endless battle for scheduled caste people of Melpathi village in Villupuram to enter the Draupati amman temple, as caste Hindus are firm in not allowing the former inside.

About 400 women along with children staged a sit-in protest inside the temple on Friday, locking the front door, shouting slogans against Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department, district administration and police for ‘supporting the SC members’ to enter the temple.

It may be noted that five representatives of caste Hindus had agreed for the temple entry before district collector C Palani, Superintendent (in-charge) N Mohan Raj and RDO S Ravichandran a couple of days ago.

Sources said the representatives say something at meetings with officials but threaten SC members in the village later. Multiple peace talks were facilitated by the district administration, but have gone in vain. An FIR filed against caste Hindus has also not brought about any change even 40 days after registering it.

“We don’t care about entering the temple after all the humiliation we have undergone in the past 45 days. There is no God beyond caste. However, our main demand is that action should be taken based on the FIR filed against those who abused and assaulted us before hundreds of people,” said S Kandhan, father of Kathiravan (21), the victim who was assaulted.

Another 45-year-old SC member said, “On Wednesday they agreed at the meeting to let us into the temple. The same night, they came to our colony and threatened us with dire consequences if we entered the temple.”

Meanwhile, S Hari Krishnan (22), a caste Hindu resident, told TNIE, “It is our tradition not to let Dalits enter the temple. Even we enter the temple only after fasting for days and practising rituals. How can we accept them simply entering the temple and taking the rights for one day during festival?”

As regards the assault, Krishnan said, “The man who claims to be the victim was misbehaving with women at the festival that day. That is why we got agitated and sent him away. This is being twisted.” However, Krishnan could not provide any evidence for the alleged offence by Kathiravan.

Ravichandran told TNIE, “The matter was settled amicably on Friday afternoon. We are attempting to resolve the issue without causing any future tension, and law and order is under control.

Chronology of events: 

April 7 – Three SC members assaulted for entering temple; SC members stage roadblock 

April 8 – First peace talks held by the RDO; FIR registered against, but action withheld until next peace meeting 

April 10 – Second peace talks not held as caste Hindus did not show up 

May 17 – SC residents seek action on FIR, meet higher education minister, collector

May 18 – Caste Hindus protest against minister’s remarks

May 20 – Third peace talks held in the presence of Villupuram MP, collector and RDO; 3 days sought by caste Hindus to arrive at decision

May 24 – Caste Hindus agree to let Dalits inside

May 26 – Caste Hindus stage a protest against HR&CE department, district administration and police for supporting Dalits

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