Debating India

Kandadevi temple festival peaceful

Thursday 23 June 2005, by JAISHANKAR*C.

Preventive arrests by police; Dalit leaders barred entry into Devakottai

KANDADEVI: After protracted talks between administration officials and caste Hindus, Dalits were allowed to pull the temple car of the Sri Swarnamoortheeshwarar Temple at Kandadevi in Sivaganga district on Tuesday.

After the Madras High Court passed an order allowing Dalit participation in the festival, officials ensured that Dalits were permitted to draw the temple car. The ceremony then passed off peacefully.

Police promulgated Section 144, citing the volatile situation around Devakottai. It carried out the preventive arrests of many Dalit leaders, including Puthiya Tamizhagam president K. Krishnasamy and Dalit Panthers chief Thol Thirumaavalavan, who were not allowed to enter the district.

Although there was tension at Kandadevi following the arrests, the authorities managed to start the ceremony as per schedule. At 2 p.m., through an announcement the four "Nattars" were asked to get "muthal mariyadhai". A handful of Nattars were greeted with "parivattam" and "malai." Then another announcement was made and all Hindus irrespective of caste and creed were asked to come forward to pull the car.

The decorated car started from the base at 2.20 p.m. amid chants and "nadaswaram" music and kept good pace. Several contingents of police, including the Swift Action Force and the Tamil Nadu Special Police, dotted the route. Riot control vehicles were also stationed along the car route.

Caste Hindus outnumbered the Dalits in the ceremony, but Sivaganga Collector Anand Patil and Inspector General of Police J.K. Tripathy said they were happy that the High Court order was implemented without any untoward incidents. The Nattars and the Dalits showed no ill will and exchanged pleasantries during the ceremony. Mr. Patil was a relieved man. "I am so happy, nothing can match this joyful occasion."

Officials had to alternately plead and talk tough to get both sides to agree to a compromise formula. There were no signs of a "peaceful compromise" till late on Monday. However, at no point did the police stop talking with the community leaders. In the end, caste Hindus were told that increased Dalit participation was essential for ensuring the smooth conduct of the festival. As per the final agreement, more Dalits were allowed to participate as compared to last year.

See online : The Hindu

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