An incident of converted Christians obstructing temple consecration in Tamil Nadu has come to the fore. They have claimed that they are being discriminated against by the temple committee which doesn’t collect funds for renovation from them. They have also demanded that the temple chariot should pass through their street.
On April 3, a report in ABP Tamil informed that residents of Manojipatti in Thanjavur submitted a petition to the district collector seeking action against a temple committee. The report says “people belonging to one community” petitioned Thanjavur collector Dinesh Ponraj Oliver. The petition says, “Nearly 7000 people live in Manojipatti that comes under Neelagiri South Garden and Ramanathapuram Additional Panchayats. People from our caste constitute more than 1500 of this number”.
“People from all castes worship in the Muthu Mariamman temple in the neighborhood. The consecration ceremony of the temple was conducted 20 years ago. Plans were made to conduct the consecration ceremony again and efforts were taken to that effect. But people of our caste are being neglected from participating in the works for the consecration ceremony. We need proper representation in the ceremony for our community”. They also staged a protest in front of the collector’s office.
To the naked eye, it would appear like a caste issue between two groups of Hindus who belong to different castes. But another news report says otherwise. The news clipping dated April 2 says that two residents of Manojipatti sent petitions to the HRCE Joint Commissioner of Thanjavur and the Commissioner of the head office in Chennai.
The petition sent by Vijayakumar of South Street Devendram of Upparigai Street in Manojipatti says, “The 150 year old Muthu Mariamman temple in Manojipatti has 9 deities. It is under the control of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) department and the consecration ceremony and a grand festival are conducted once in 12 years and 5 years respectively.”
“A Christian from the neighborhood is working against conducting the consecration ceremony and the festival. He is acting against the traditions of the temple and its welfare. The obstacles in conducting the consecration ceremony, festivals and other traditions should be removed and action should be taken to ensure that the public continues worship without any hindrance everyday”.
The temple comes under the control of HRCE and receives subsidy under the Oru Kaala Puja scheme of the TN government. Local sources say that this Christian mentioned in the petition is a resident of the neighborhood. He has been reportedly gathering fellow Christian converts to claim non-existent caste discrimination. The temple committee collects money from the devotees for conducting festivals and renovations. The Christian man says it didn’t collect money from his people and claims it as caste discrimination by not letting them take part in organising the consecration ceremony.
He is also reportedly demanding that the temple chariot must pass through their street which is not part of the traditional route. However, the chariot stops at the street’s entrance as part of the tradition despite the fact that the residents are converted Christians. He is doing all this with the support of the DMK MP of the constituency. This is a time-tested method used by converts to claim that they are being discriminated against because the temple chariot doesn’t pass through their street and creates obstacles against conducting temple festivals.
Temple utsavams and chariots pass through a traditional route followed for a long time and they miss many streets where Hindus live in the majority as well. Can those Hindus claim caste discrimination? Moreover, how does what happens in a Hindu temple concern Christians? One of the probabilities is that they possess an SC Hindu caste certificate while practicing Christianity in private and it could be a conspiracy to hinder the functioning of the temple. There have been many such cases in the past.
Recently, feces being mixed into a drinking water tank used by SC Hindus came to light in Tamil Nadu. Even though the issue garnered a lot of attention in the media, the perpetrators have not yet been arrested. It is alleged that they are members of political parties. The incident was diverted into an issue of temple entry being denied to SC Hindus. The district collector and police commissioner turned the media attention to temple entry(which looked manufactured) and hogged all the limelight as heroes.
There have been many incidents of anti-Hindus exploiting the fault lines between different jaatis of a neighbourhood to claim victimhood and shut down or take over temples. A temple near Madurai was taken over by HRCE and closed after a disagreement between two groups in the traditions followed in the temple. After a 11 year long legal battle, the temple was recently opened for public worship following a court order. Being the representatives of the secular state HRCE officials further the differences and disagreements rather than helping people find a solution and many temples are lying abandoned without puja and worship.
Manojipatti locals say that they have taken measures to protect the temple and establish their rights through legal means. But with over-enthusiastic and woke bureaucrats problems could be created out of thin air to trample on Hindu rights. With the DMK government passing a resolution to extend SC status to converted Christians, such incidents will only increase.
The SC ST Atrocities Act is misused as it is and extending SC status to converted Christians will only further it. One might remember Shalin Maria Lawrence, a Quint Columnist and self-acclaimed “Dalit activist” lamenting that she couldn’t book her neighbour under the atrocities act as she is a Christian, for a mere WiFi issue. It will not be a surprise if converted Christians use the act to target Hindu activists who oppose conversion by force and deceit. After saying that merely going to a church cannot make one Christian and that SC certificates cannot be canceled based on that, the courts might claim that Christians have rights to enter, participate and make decisions in temple matters as well.
Meanwhile “Dalit Christians” wait for equal treatment from fellow Christians, staging protests against discrimination in the church hierarchy. The church cars, a cheap imitation of temple chariots, don’t pass through their streets and they are made to wait outside the gates in pouring rain in diocesan offices.