TIRUPUR: Dalits of seven villages in Tirupur district are not allowed to worship at the a new Uthamapalayam Mariyamman temple, which was built by the area’s caste Hindus because the old temple, under HR&CE (Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments) Department, ‘lost its sanctity’ when Dalits entered it in 2010.
The old Mariamman Temple in Utthamapalayam, near Vellakoil, was built in 1964.
However, caste Hindus then formed the ‘Mariamman Kovil Trust’ and built a new temple in the village. The trust was later renamed as ‘Pudhu Mariamman Koil Trust’ in view of questions about the legality of a trust in the name of the existing temple under the HR&CE Department. There are no Dalits in the 11-member trust.
When Dalits tried to take part in the consecration ceremony of the new temple, caste Hindus attacked them for entering it. Following this, the Dharapuram Revenue Divisional Officer ordered its closure.
The attackers were booked under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the district administration paid compensations to 149 Dalits. However, only one person was given Rs 1 lakh and the others were given amounts as low as Rs 12,500.
“The amount should be equal for all victims as the compensation was not for physical injuries, but for the injury to their rights,” said S Karuppaiah, convener of the Uthamapalayam Temple Entry Agitation Committee and State joint general secretary of Dalit Liberation Movement. Dalits from the villages of Uthamapalayam, Velampalayam, Thasavanaickenpatty, Naganaickenpatty, Thenkalipalayam, Kaattupalayam and Thalakkarai got the right to enter the old temple only decades after it was built and are now continuing their legal battle to enter the new temple.
A case about the ownership of the temple is currently pending in the Dharapuram Sub-court. The next hearing is scheduled to be held on June 3, 2016.
A member of the Pudhu Mariamman Koil Trust said that it owns the new temple and that others could not claim ownership. “We can provide documents showing that we own the new temple. The HR&CE Department has not acquired it,” he told Express.