Villagers fund construction of compound wall to keep dalits away from century-old temple

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Tiruvannamalai: Residents of Hariharapakkam panchayat near Cheyyar are all set to construct a ‘Caste wall’ to keep away dalits of Namandi from the century-old temple in the village. Hariharapakkam residents, all belonging to vanniya community, reportedly pooled in money to construct the wall.

The century-old Arulmighu Thulukanathamman Temple, which comes under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) department, has become a bone of contention ever since a group of youth from Namandi colony approached the Tiruvannamalai district administration on August 27, 2016 to help them offer prayers at the temple. Vanniyars have been blocking dalits’ entry into the temple for long.

After weathering legal tangles and political pressures, revenue officials took a group of 50 to 60 dalits into the temple on October 25 last year. However, the issue snow balled into a law and order problem, resulting in the closure of the temple the following day.

The residents of Hariharapakkam passed a resolution to lift the ban on the entry of dalits. Their objective was only to open the temple again. However, the vanniyars reportedly continued to intimidate the residents of Namandi colony to scare them away. “Fearing the wrath of the vanniyars, we stopped going to the temple. The elders in the colony have also cautioned us to keep silent over the issue as they outnumber us in 4:1 ratio. The vanniyars in our panchayat also support their community people in Hariharapakkam,” said a dalit youth.

Now, they have planned to construct a wall between the temple and the dalit colony. “The vanniyars have decided to build the wall at one side of the temple only. Each family in the village (Hariharapakkam) agreed to it and gave their contribution for the work. They engaged earthmover on Sunday to dig a pit to lay the foundation for the compound wall. A trench has been dug for nearly 200 metres to construct the wall. It is aimed at only blocking us,” he added.

When contacted, one of village elders of Hariharapakkam said no work was going on. He refused to speak further.

Noting that the move to construct a wall had ulterior motives, an official of the HR & CE said they would take necessary action if anyone violates rules. “If the intentions are good, villagers can construct a compound wall for the temple. But the work taken up by the villagers of Hariharapakkam has a caste angle to it. We will take the issue to the revenue officials and initiate suitable action,” said an HR&CE official.

He further said taking up any work at the temple without prior permission from the HR&CE department was illegal.

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