By S Senthil Kumar /ENS – COIMBATORE
01st October 2012 08:56 AM
Members of the Dalit community entering the Mariamman Temple at Kalapatti on Sunday | S Kamalakannan /ENS
For the first time, a large number of Dalits entered the 100-year-old Mariamman Temple at Kalapatti here on Sunday.
The Dalits were denied entry into the temple even after it came under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) Department, in 1976, according to MP P R Natarajan.
Around 11 am, under the watchful eyes of over 40 police personnel, around 400 members of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, Aathi Thamizhar Peravai and Adi Thamizhar Viduthalai Munnani entered the temple and worshipped there. September 30 was chosen as the day of entry as it was the memorial day for Srinivasa Rao of Keel Thanjavur, who fought for the rights of Dalits to enter temples.
Speaking about the discrimination against his community, 55-year-old V Selvaraj said, “There are hundreds of Dalit families in the 15 villages around Kalapatti. They were allowed to stand only 30 ft away from the sanctum sanctorum. We were forced to wait more than 15 minutes for the priest to give us prasadam, after giving it to the Caste Hindus.” Another local, P Velliyangiri, said that till now, they followed the advice of their forefathers that god would punish them if they entered the temple. “In my lifetime I have not entered a temple,” he said.
But, the Caste Hindus denied any such discrimination. “They are not entering the temple as per their own decision,” they said.