Dalits still at the receiving end in matters relating to South Indian temples
Temples continue to be spaces for oppression and resistance and remain a major source of caste clashes, a study has found.
Dalits are at the receiving end in issues like entry to temples and right to participate in festivals and they face stiff opposition and attack from caste Hindus, according to the study conducted recently by Evidence, a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, in the southern districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar, Sivaganga and Dindigul to unearth discriminatory practices in temples.
The various forms of discriminatory practices that are reported to have taken place in these sacred spaces include clash over serving of annadhanam to a Dalit and untouchability in cattle donation; Dalits were prevented from donating cattle.
Eighty-five panchayats were chosen for the study, which found that 69 temples among them remained inaccessible to Dalits.
In 72 temples, Dalits were allowed to enter but prevented from entering the common place of worship. Fifty-four temples did not allow their temple cars to enter the streets of Dalit colonies and areas.
In 52 temples Dalits were not given the equal honour of having the headscarf. Thirty-three temples did not allow them to pull the temple car. In 64 temples Dalits were not allowed to perform rituals and also denied chance for cultural performances during festivals. In the recent past, temple clashes were the starting point for attacks and murder of Dalits.
In Senthatti village near Sankarankoil in Tirunelveli district, it was over the celebration of Muppidathi Amman temple festival. During the Paramakalyani Siva Saiva Nathar temple festival, three Dalits of Keezhambur near Ambasamudram in Alwarkurichi police limits were killed.
In its recommendations, the NGO said that Section 3 (1) (14) of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act) 1989 should be invoked in cases of atrocities such as denial of worshipping rights and temple entry. The State government should present a White Paper on the attacks against Dalits during festivals.
District-level monitoring committees should be formed to take preventive action. A mechanism should be worked out to abolish caste-based discrimination under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.
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