Harijan and local political workers proclaim that they will enter the Sri Ekambareshwarar Temple at Chettipulam near Vedaranyam, for the first time ever on September 30.
On that day and on the next day they find the temple locked. They do a sit-in for few hours and depart.
On October 14 they try temple entry again .The upper caste mob had blocked the road, placed tree logs, concrete tunnel pipes etc. at intermittent gaps. Heavy stone throwing by ‘caste’ Hindus greeted them and many got injured
A glimpse from India’s not so glorious past?
Unfortunately No. This happened this year in 2009 in Tamilnadu, the bastion of backward class politics.
There has been long standing feud between politically and economically powerful ‘Vanniyars and the Dalits in several parts of Tamilnadu.In many of the temples run by Vanniyars Dalits are never allowed entry.
About 300 CPI (M) workers and Dalits, led by Nagapattinam MLA Marimuthu, organised a temple entry agitation at Chettipulam on September 30 along with the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front. But they found the temple locked. When they tried to force entry Police stopped them.
It was decided at the peace talks that Nagapattinam RDO Rajendran held with the Dalits,’Caste’ Hindus of the village and CPI (M) cadres on October 7 that dalits, led by Mr Marimuthu, would enter the temple on October 14 along with the villagers.
But on October 14, the village witnessed violence, lathicharge and police firing when the vehicles in which Dalits, accompanied by police and revenue officials were proceeding to the temple, were attacked by a mob.
Now the Good news
On October 27,Tuesday the District Collector Mr Munianathan under heavy Police security ushered in the Dalits inside the temple for the first time in its history.
“Hordes of women and men jostled each other as they crossed the threshold of the temple and walked towards the sanctum sanctorum with flowers, garlands and coconuts as offerings to the deity. As they craned their necks to catch a glimpse of their god, the DRO and the Collector personally collected their offerings and passed it on to the priest into the sanctum for special prayers.
The general folks of the village, other than the Dalits, were absent at the temple. Most of the men are said to be on the run, following the legal crackdown by police after the violence of October 14.”
Dalits offering prayers at the Ekambareshwarar temple in Chettipulam village near Vedaranyam at Nagapattinam district. Photo:M_Moorthy from The Hindu
“I am delighted that my many-year-old desire has been fulfilled today.”
This is how Mahatma Gandhi wrote in the visitors’ book shortly after offering worship at the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, along with Dalits and members of certain other “excluded communities” on February 4, 1946.
Speaking at a rally in Palani soon afterwards, he said worship of God’s image would serve no good unless people cleansed their hearts of hardness against fellow beings. God should be enshrined not in images but in human hearts. He said he worshipped the deities at the Madurai temple because that shrine was now open to Dalits.
Though more than 60 years have gone by discriminatory practices against Dalits continue in several parts of Tamil Nadu.
In a recent survey of 658 temples in 5 southern districts of Tamil Nadu it was found that some form of discrimination takes place in 200 of them.
Dalits have been denied entry into 121 temples. In 128 temples they do not have access to the sanctum sanctorum. They are not permitted to perform pujas at 106 shrines. Temple cars skip Dalit colonies at 174 places. Dalits are allowed to enter the places of worship only during specific hours fixed for them in 103 cases. In 86 temples, the honour of tying “parivattam” (a cloth tied around the head) has been denied to Dalits.
When will this shame of India and Hinduism be erased forever?
adapted from deccan chronicle,expressbuzz,the hindu,the frontline