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TN: Dalits Denied Participation in Village Temple, Refused Permission for Ritual

The Arunthathiyar community in Aviyur village alleged the police officials and authorities of siding with the dominant caste groups in denying permission for sprout pot procession in their temple. Other untouchability practices come to light after TNUEF's intervention.
The Arunthathiyars of Aviyur village after submitting the demands to the district collector on June 20.

The Arunthathiyars of Aviyur village after submitting the demands to the district collector on June 20.

Carrying the traditional ‘Sprout-Pot’ has been a long dream of around 100 Arunthathiyar community members in Aviyur village in Virudhunagar district. But, they are denied the right to the common temple managed by the dominant caste groups in the village.

When they approached the police for holding the traditional ritual in their temple and dissolving it in the village pond, the police denied permission, citing it as a new practice and opposition from the other caste groups.

After the denial of permission, the district authorities were approached, leading to a social boycott in the village for a couple of days. The meetings by the Scheduled Caste (SC) community also irked the 2,000 families of dominant caste groups, including Agamudayars, Nadars and Naickers.

The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) accused the police officials of standing by the dominant caste groups and denying rights to worship for the socially oppressed communities. A survey by the organisation identified further untouchability practices, including the refusal of haircuts in salons and two tumbler systems in tea shops.


For several years, the Arunthathiyars have been mere spectators in the temple festival since they are denied permission to carry the sprout pot. The festival is dominated and controlled by the numerically-strong other caste groups in the Aviyur village in Kariapatti block in Virudhunagar district.

After being refused the right for the sole reason of being born in the socially oppressed Arunthathiyar community, they decided to have the traditional procession in their own temple during the festival on June 9 and 10.

As is the practice, by the end of May, they approached the village head seeking permission to hold the festival but were outrightly denied. ‘Any new practice cannot be permitted’, that too initiated by the SC community, was the reason cited by the dominant caste groups.

They approached the police on June 2, seeking protection for holding the festival and the rituals, but were denied permission. The reasons cited in the proceedings on June 6 by the Inspector of Police, Kariapati station was echoing the arguments of the dominant castes,” said K Murugan, the Virudhunagar district secretary of the TNUEF.

Besides citing law and order issues owing to the demand of the Arunthathiyar community, the practice of the sprout pot procession is new despite the festival being held in the temple for the past several years.

The TNUEF office bearers holding meeting with the affected Arunthathiyar community families in the village.

The TNUEF office bearers holding meeting with the affected Arunthathiyar community families in the village.

This is literally siding with the oppressors. The Arunthathiyars decided to have a procession of their own since they were denied permission to participate in the village temple festival dominated by the other communities,” Murugan said.

The villagers alleged that the police forced them to dissolve the sprout pot in the temple pond, citing opposition from the dominant caste. A social boycott of the dalits was issued on June 18 after they approached the district administration with complaints of lack of support from the police and oppression from the dominant caste.

The issue was immediately escalated, and the social boycott was withdrawn the next day. But whatever has happened is against the Constitution, which ensures equal rights to all sections of the people irrespective of their caste or religion,” Murugan added.

Few families from the Arunthathiyar community, including the elected panchayat councillor, have sided with the dominant community members. The police and other authorities cited their claims as the reason for denying permission, but the majority had other opinions.


The TNUEF met the affected community and held surveys on the other untouchability practices prevailing in the village. What had come out in the temple ritual was just the tip of the iceberg. Through the survey, they discovered the denial of permission to wear chappals by the dalits in select streets, two tumbler systems in tea shops and the refusal of haircuts in salons.

The dalit community members are travelling to Kariapati for a haircut since the two shops in the locality refuse. In tea shops, they are provided tea in disposable cups, while the members are served in stainless steel cups.”

The TNUEF submitted a memorandum to the Virudhunagar district collector on June 22, including the untouchability practices in the village and injustice meted out to them during the temple festivals.

Even elderly people are forced to sit on the floors of the hotels to have food. During functions, there is a ban on beating thavils (drums) in the streets. Recently, when the relatives of the dalits came from a neighbouring village, they were forced to carry the drums on their heads,” Murugan said.

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