Chennai: Kept out of local temples, some 250 Hindu Dalit families from two Tamil Nadu villages, Pazhangkallimedu and Nagapalli, returned their Voter IDs and Aadhar cards, and have threatened to convert to Islam, according to media reports.
At Pazhangkallimedu village in Nagapattinam district, 180 Dalit families say they want to be able to perform rituals on one day during the five-day annual temple festival. But with caste Hindus allegedly refusing them permission, six Dalit Hindus from the village have already embraced Islam.
Local residents said volunteers of the Tamil Nadu Towheed Jamaat (TNTJ) distributed copies of the Quran in the village, while a Christian missionary also approached them. Meanwhile, leaders of outfits such as the Hindu Munnani and the Hindu Makkal Katchi have been urging them not to take the step and have been mediating between Dalit families and caste Hindus, according to Indian Express.
The coastal village of Pazhangkallimedu has about 400 families, 180 of them Dalits. Caste Hindus here mostly belong to the Pillai community, traditionally comprising landlords.
Several Dalit families have returned their Voter IDs and Aadhar cards in protest, ANI reported.
Senthil Kumar, a leader of the Dalit party, VCK, who is leading the protests, said the village youth suggested converting to Islam after the administration and the police failed to ensure worship rights for them in Bhadra Kaliamman temple.
“We want to perform Mandagapadi, or lead the rituals, on one of the five days of the annual temple festival. But we are denied that right. My parents and grandparents were slaves. I wish my generation does not have to face untouchability and insults. Conversion may be the only option for us,” he said.
Kumar said police are looking into the issue, and several petitions filed before the district collector have yielded no response.
Other protester named Geeta, while speaking to mediapersons said, “No one is addressing our problems and if such discrimination continues we will be forced to convert to Islam.”
A senior police officer said talks are on to end the stalemate. “There was a suggestion to allow Dalits to conduct puja during the day but they want the full 24 hours. Negotiations are on,” he said.