KARUR :A day after Dalits of Lingathuparai in Malaikovilur threatened to embrace Islam, alleging they were denied entry into the temple they helped build in the village, HR&CE Assistant Commissioner Rathnavel Pandian visited them on Monday and assured of an amicable solution.

However, there is no change in the ground reality. While the Dalits stand firm in their decision to convert if they are not given temple rights, Caste Hindus want the former to stay away from the festivities.

After a group of Dalits laid siege to the Collectorate in Monday over the issue, Express visited Lingathuparai, situated on the banks of Kodaganaru river, for a detailed account. The village comprises over 150 Dalits residing at the Adi Dravidar and Caste Hindus including some families that had settled here from Sri Lanka. The Lankans are a mix of Caste Hindus and Dalits, who returned to Tamil Nadu in the late 1970s and settled in Lingathuparai around a decade ago.

Trouble started when a few Caste Hindu Lankans allegedly wanted to organise a festival at the Sri Mahasakthi Mariamman temple in the village keeping the Dalits away. But the Dalits claim they built the temple in 2009 using grant from Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) departments and public donation. They also formed a trust having Dalits as office bearers to look after the temple administration, according to P Vettrivel, president of the trust.

Speaking to Express, Vettrivel said there are over 7 temples in Malaikovilur and Dalits built a temple for themselves in order to avoid being discriminated at other places. The Lankan settlers contend they helped in constructing the amman temple, a fact not denied by Dalits. But Caste Hindus did not participate in the annual festival of the temple held in May.

Even as the tensions were simmering, Caste Hindus issued notices about organising a festival in the temple in August, claiming that the annual festival had not been conducted properly. R Pandian, treasurer of the temple trust said the announcement is an attempt to trivialise Dalits who conducted the festival only a month ago and to denounce their participation. “All this time we were happy that people from other castes worshipped in our temple”, said Balasundaram, secretary of the trust and added that the relations soured when the Caste Hindus wanted to organise separate festivals.

Further he said that even as the Karur RDO Balasubramanian granted three days permission for Caste Hindus to conduct the festival, Vettrivel received anonymous calls asking Dalits to stay away.  When contacted, Aravakurichi Tasildar Duraimurugan said permission has been granted to celebrate the festival jointly.

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