GO TO SOURCE
PERAMBALUR, INDIA, December 12, 2000: Tension prevailed for over three hours this morning in Alagapuram village, 25 km from Jayamkondam, when over 2,000 upper caste Vanniyars blocked the streets leading to the Alageeswarar temple, to prevent the proposed march to the temple by "untouchable" Dalits who had been denied entry to the temple for the past several decades. Police posted on all approach roads, and around the temple, enabled the Dalits, headed by Mr. S. Thirunavukkarasu, state general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Workers Union to march and press their right for entry into the temple, as guaranteed under India's constitution. Peace talks were held between the leaders of the Vanniyar community and the Dalit leaders. Mr. R. Perunargili, headquarters speaker of the PMK, said he would impress upon the villagers that it was illegal to prevent the Dalits from entering the temple. Both groups agreed to further talks on December 21 at Jayamkondam. The temple, built by Rajaraja Chola, was under the care of hereditary trustees belonging to the Vanniyar community for decades until three years ago when the HRCE department took over administration. Until recently, the Dalits were not insisting on entering the temple, but during the past week, with support of Marxist leaders, they claimed the right to entry, and posters announced the decision of the Dalits to enter the temple today. Today both groups attended the peace committee meeting and decided not to precipitate the issue until the next round of talks.