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ARIYALUR:The ill-advised move to open a disputed temple for worship without efforts to broker peace has sparked caste tensions at Silambur in Ariyalur, where prohibitory orders have been clamped. In less than a fortnight after the temple was reopened, the authorities have sealed it yet again.

The temple near Aandimadam is dedicated to folk gods Ayyanar, Muniyanar and Veeranar, whom a section of Vanniyars called Kondiyars describe as their family deities. The temple is considered to be hereditary by the Kondiyars, as these deities are worshipped only by them, not all Vanniyars. Over the years, however, all among the local public, including the Dalits, have been offering prayers.

“Only during my generation, in the last three decades, we started entering into the temple to offer prayers to Veeranar,” recalled S K Mayavel, who is heading the Dalit’s protest in the village.

This changed in 2014, when Muthusamy, a member of Dalit community, said Veeranar appeared in his dreams and asked him to install a new idol in the temple as a sign of gratitude for a wish fulfilled. But the Vanniyars opposed it.

A complaint was lodged with the officials, who organised a peace meet at Jayankondam taluk office in July 2014, Mayavel said. It was then decided that the temple belonged to Kondiyar section, after an earlier court order in a case of land dispute among members of Vanniyar community that involved a portion of temple land was furnished. Both the Vanniyars and Dalits signed an agreement after the negotiations, and the temple was fenced by Kondiyars.

The dispute later took a new turn after Dalits, through an RTI application, collected records saying the temple came under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department. When contacted, HR&CE assistant commissioner Senthil Kumar said the temple had been under government control from 2006. “The executive officer of Thirumazhapadi temple is the ‘Thakkar’ of Silambur Ayyanar temple.” When asked whether the HR&CE was maintaining any accounts for the temple, the official said he had to check the records.

Last year, the VCK and the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front of the CPM came in support of Dalits, announcing protest for temple entry. Some Dalits were arrested and the temple was sealed then.

The officials suddenly broke the seal and opened the temple on July 17. But when Dalits proceeded towards the temple, the Vanniyars opposed it. This led to tension, and on Saturday, the temple was sealed once again.