Tension in village as Dalits insist on entering temple


By Our Special Correspondent

PERAMBALUR, DEC. 11. Tension prevailed for over three hours this morning in Alagapuram village, 25 km from Jayamkondam, when over 2,000 Vanniyars blocked the main streets leading to the Alageeswarar temple, to prevent the proposed march to the temple by Dalits who had been denied entry to the temple for the past several decades.

However, the strong contingent of police posted on all approach roads, and around the temple, enabled the dalits, headed by Mr. S. Thirunavukkarasu, state general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Workers Union, affiliated to the CPI(M), to go ahead with the march to press their right for entry into the temple.

Later peace talks were held between the leaders of the Vanniyar community and the Dalit leaders in the presence of Mr. K. Phaneendra Reddy, District Collector. Mr. R. Perunargili, headquarters speaker of the PMK, said he would impress upon the villagers that it was illegal to prevent the Dalits from entering the temple. The leaders of the Dalit group assured the Collector that they would maintain peace. Both the groups agreed to have further talks on the matter on December 21 at Jayamkondam.

The temple was built by Rajaraja Chola, according to Mr. S. Chidambaram, trustee of the temple, and for the past many decades, it was under the care of the hereditary trustees, belonging to the Vanniyar community. However, three years ago, the HRCE department took over the administration, and appointed an executive officer. Until recently, the dalits were not insisting on entering the temple, but during the past one week, with the active support of the Marxist leaders, they claimed that none had the right to refuse them entry, since it was a HR & CE controlled temple. During the past three days, posters were put up in all nearby villages announcing the decision of the Dalits to enter the temple today.

The dalits refused to attend a peace committee meeting scheduled to be held on Saturday as they feared that the Vanniyas were armed with deadly weapons. All the main roads leading to Alagapuram were under strict police vigil. Hundreds of villagers said they would not allow dalits to enter the temple, but agreed to discuss the issue later with their leaders.

The temple trustee today found that the villagers had put two locks besides the one with which the temple door was locked last night.

Today both the groups attended the peace committee meeting and decided not to precipitate the issue until the next round of talks. At the meeting, the leaders of the Vanniyar community also agreed to put an end to the ``double tumbler'' system alleged to be in vogue in Alagapuram village immediately.

Residents of the Dalit colony, just 100 metres from the temple, said they had been living peacefully with members of the other community in the village all along. They said if some Dalits wanted to enter the temple they should not be prevented.

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