A group of Dalits in the village of Hariharapakkam in Cheyyar claimed their right to equality by entering the Arulmigu Thulukanathamman temple with police protection on Tuesday. The temple, located in the vicinity of the Dalit neighbourhood of Namandi, had been out of the bounds for the community for generations. According to a report by The Hindu, revenue officials escorted a group of about 60 Dalit people of Namandi village to Thulukanathamman on Tuesday night.
The upper castes or the Vanniyars in the village have denied entry to the Dalits into the century-old temple.
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“When we entered the temple on Tuesday, tears trickled from my eyes. We felt as if we got freedom just then. I cannot express our feeling of the moment in words. Government officials have been fair to us and gave protection and support to enter the temple. We thank them. The Vanniyars have been active in mobilising themselves against this temple entry that was somewhat terrifying. At present, the police are here and we feel safe,” B Sudhakar, a mechanic by profession, told The Hindu.
It wasn’t an easy task for the Dalits though. Sudhakar, along with a group of people from his community – including Aruldass, Pandiyaraj, Prakash, Karthick and Parthiban – petitioned the District Collector to help them enter the temple and worship. The Sub Collector of Cheyyar , T. Prabu Shankar, conducted several peace meetings between the Vanniyars and the Dalits in an attempt to convince the Vanniyars. The attempts were futile and the officials decided to escort the Dalits to the temple with protection.
Shankar praised the petitioners for their patience and faith in law. He said, “Since they (Vanniyars) were not willing to budge, we fulfilled our duty to ensure equal right for Dalits to enter the temple. The petitioners waited patiently, keeping faith in law until we made arrangements.”