Breaking shackles, Dalits enter forbidden temple in Tamil Nadu

Dalits in the locality said the Vanniyars community restricted their entry into the temple after claiming it belongs to them and cannot change the "social order"

Breaking shackles, Dalits enter forbidden temple in Tamil Nadu

A few days ago, it was a pleasant day for the Dalit community in Cheyyar taluk of Tamil Nadu as it witnessed a historic event. As many as 60 Dalits belonging to the Adi-Dravida community from Namandi village in Cheyyar entered 70-year old Thulukkanathamman temple, breaking the caste discrimination maintained by the Vanniyar community in the region. The commendable intervention was made possible with the support and protection of the local officials.

Thulukkanathamman temple, managed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments  (HR&CE), an official department of the Tamil Nadu government, has remained forbidden to Dalits since 1988. Dalits in the locality said the Vanniyars community restricted their entry after claiming the temple belongs to them and they could not change the "social order".

"We have experienced extreme agony when we are not even allowed into the premises of the temple which is near our place itself. It happens when our classmates from the caste Hindu families and tens of thousands of devotees from faraway places enter the temple for worship," Dalit youths' leader Sudhakar said.

B Sudhakar, a mechanic by profession, had submitted a petition to the district collector in last July, seeking protection to enter the temple for worship. When the peace talks between the communities failed, sub-collector Prabu Shankar and the local officials assisted protesters to enter the temple, breaking illegally locked gates of the temple.

K Samuel Raj, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) told Narada News: "On September 30, 2015, we made an attempt to enter the temple by taking Dalits into confidence, but they were not ready to do like this at that time. But now, they have come forward fearlessly.”

Raj added that the TNUEF has made intervention in 20 temples in the state against the caste discrimination, which keep the oppressed sections away from worship.

Meanwhile, people from the Vanniyar community staged a protest, arguing the temple was constructed by their ancestors and the community had been maintaining it till date. The protesters also demanded action against officials assisted Dalit's entry to the temple.

The annual festival in the Thulukkanathamman temple, which has been organised by Vanniyar community for years, didn’t take place this year after Sudhakar submitted a petition to the district administration seeking entry into the temple.