The peace meeting was held in the wake of the Madras High Court observation that the State had moral and legal mandate to allow Dalits to perform rituals at the temple. It had asked the district administration to convene a meeting to work out a compromise to conduct the festival without any hitch at least next year.
Representatives of Dalits of Pazhag Kallimedu and caste Hindus of Kallimedu took part in the meeting convened by Tahsildar of Vedaranyam B. Elango. Deputy Superintendent of Police R. Pon Karthick Kumar and the officials of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) Department participated. Referring to the observations made by the High Court, Mr. Elango said there was a need to find an amicable solution by involving all stakeholders. Caste Hindus should come forward to consider the demand of Dalits to hold mandagpadi for a day as part of Aadi festival of the temple, he said.
However, representatives of caste Hindus refused to budge from their stand stating that there was no question of giving up the traditional practices being followed for several decades.
“We do not have any objection to Dalits performing pujas at the temple. However, it is important to adhere to agama rules and customs. There should not be any change in the schedule of temple festival. We will not give up our mandagpadi rights,” a representative of caste Hindus, who attended the peace meeting, said.
Representatives of Dalits argued that they had been fighting for equal rights in holding mandagapadi for so long. But caste Hindus were indifferent to their genuine demand. It was a clear case of discrimination against Dalits, they contended.
“We are fighting to ensure our rights guaranteed by the constitution. We will not give up our struggle against the discrimination,” K. Tamil Selvam, a Dalit representative, said.
Dalit representatives said that caste Hindus could not dictate terms on organising the festival of a temple which was under the control of the HR&CE Department. The Department should not shy away from its responsibility and was duty-bound to ensure the rights of Dalits.
A senior official said that both sides are unwilling to give up their stand. Officials had recorded the statements of all parties.
Another round of peace meeting would be held in a few days, he indicated.