-- Collector leads Dalits into Chettipulam temple P.V. Srividya
|Villagers other than Dalits were not present|
Considerable police security at temple
Dalits promised of all administrative help
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD: Dalits offer prayers at Ekambareshwarar temple in Chettipulam in Nagapattinam.
VEDARANYAM: Dalits of Chettipulam on Tuesday entered the Ekambareshwarar temple here to offer prayers, amid considerable police security. They were led by the District Collector and the District Revenue Officer (DRO).
The temple entry followed an agreement reached at peace talks on Monday between Dalits and caste Hindus.
Arrangements were made for Dalits to offer special prayers early in the day. As the police and district administration officials waited outside the temple for their arrival, about 75 Dalits from Therkku Kaadu Dalit habitations were taken to the temple in vans escorted by police personnel.
Women and men jostled with one another as they crossed the threshold of the temple and walked towards the sanctum sanctorum with flowers, garlands and coconuts as offerings to the idol. As they craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the deity, the DRO and the Collector personally collected their offerings and passed them on to the priest in the sanctum sanctorum for special prayers.
While community leaders, including Chettipulam panchayat president and vice-chairman of Vedaranyam Panchayat Union, waited at the entrance to felicitate officials including the Collector and DRO, officials stepped aside to personally usher in the Dalits into the temple.
Collector C. Munianathan and DRO A. Annadurai personally served prasadam to every Dalit inside the temple after the prayers.
Later, Mr. Munianathan expressed his unequivocal displeasure to the panchayat president and vice-chairman over the turn of affairs over the past fortnight. "Discrimination has no place," he said.
He appealed to Dalits to function normally without any fear and assured them of all administrative support. Police personnel would be stationed in the area for a few more days to ensure normalcy.
Villagers other than Dalits were absent at the temple. Most of the men were said to be on the run following a crackdown by the police after the violence of October 14.
Abhay Kumar Singh, Deputy-Inspector General of Police, Thanjavur Range; Maheshwar Dayal, Superintendent of Police, Nagapattinam; Praveen Kumar Abinabu, Superintendent of Police, Tiruvarur and Rajendran, Revenue Divisional Officer, were among those present.