Chennai: Even in this e-age, the Dalits of Kancheepuram had to wage a month-long ‘war’ to gain entry into a temple. They were not allowed by the dominant caste to participate in the annual festival of the 80-year-old Adanchiamman temple last month.
It was only after the intervention of the Tamil Nadu untouchablity eradication front (TNUEF) that the Dalits were able to offer worship there last Friday. However, Murugan, a 32-year-old Dalit vegetable vendor, who had led the temple campaign, is now in the Kanchi government hospital after assault, allegedly by the upper caste people, on Monday.
Locals say that people of a backward community had prevented the Dalits from entering the temple for many years, particularly during the annual festival. “Dalits cannot even stand near the temple tank,” said TNUEF general secretary Samuvel Raj.
He said the young Dalits this year decided to resist the discrimination and sought the help of his front, following which the issue was taken up with the district administration and the police. At last, the Dalits gained entry into the Amman temple with police protection on Friday and even celebrated the ‘victory’ by cooking sweet pongal outside the gates.
“But, on Monday, Murugan was attacked by men of that BC group while in his vegetable shop. We have admitted him to a hospital with head injuries,” said TNUEF Kanchi secretary P. Bharathi Anna, adding, “The Dalits feel threatened after this attack”.
“My husband is badly injured in the head, but he survived. I am scared the attackers may come back,” said Murugan’s young wife Muniammal, standing guard at his hospital bed.
When contacted, Kanchi SP Vijaya Kumar said four persons had been arrested in connection with the attack on Murugan, which he insisted was “just a drunken brawl” and in no way linked to the temple entry issue.