The dalit Christian people of Alagumalai village in Tirupur district are facing dual discrimination in the name of caste and religion. The untouchability fence built around Easwari Amman temple in the village had denied access to the drinking water well and school for their children. They were forced to walk 2 km using an alternate route till a part of the fence was removed after Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) interfered in the issue. The fence was raised by the management of the temple at the behest of Hindu Munnani, a Sangh Parivar outfit.
The residents of the village with the support of TNUEF have filed a case to completely remove the untouchability fence at the earliest.
The temple used to be worshipped by all sections of people in the area without any religious or caste discrimination till a few years back. Three priests arrived a few years back to perform poojas in the temple and only then the problems started to arise. The temple management under the influence of Hindu Munnani activists along with a local leader of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam decided to raise the iron fence around the temple. They alleged that the two acres of land around the temple which belongs to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) department is being used for anti-social activities. The fence was raised with full police protection in the presence of Deputy Commissioner of HR & CE, Executive Officer of the temple on October 15 last year.
The fence was raised by damaging the concrete road laid by the local body for easy access for the people of the region. The opposition of the residents for closing the pathway was suppressed by the police department and the Hindu Munnani activists.
Also read: TNUEF Demands Demolition of ‘Untouchability Wall’ Isolating Dalit Residents in Walajapet in Vellore
The residents of the village said that the spare land was being used for many years as a playground by the youth of the village and for conducting meetings during festivals. They also alleged that the Hindu Munnani has been carrying out false propaganda against the residents in the name of religion and creating tensions in the name of temple.
The TNUEF and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] lodged a complaint with the district administration on the issue. Since no action was taken regarding the complaint they approached the National Commission of Scheduled Castes (NCSC) leading to the visit of the Sub- Collector of Tirupur on November 2, 2018. The Sub- Collector was gheraoed by the large gathering of the Hindu Munnani activists and the removal of the fence was opposed. The fence on the concrete path alone was removed after police disbursed the crowd.
Nandha Gopal, district secretary of the TNUEF told NewsClick, “The Vice Chairman of the NCSC visited the place and without proper enquiry has submitted a report to install a gate in the area where the fence was removed and lock it during the night. This is unacceptable since the maintenance of the timing will be an issue as people return late at night from work. We want the fencing to be completely removed so that the space is open to use by all sections of the people.”
He also added, “The fence was raised stating that the land belongs to HR & CE department. But, it actually belongs to the revenue department and hence action must be taken against those who raised the fence discriminating the people of the locality including the HR & CE and police officials. We have now filed a case for the removal of the fence and will fight till a solution is arrived.”
Discrimination in the name of caste and religion has been growing in the state as the Sangh parivar groups under different names have become active in the name of temple protection and renovation. The state government instead of taking strict action against such discriminative activities remains silent most of the times. The struggles of organisations like TNUEF are the only respite for the affected people.