Monday, September 3, 2012

Temple fete: one caste group can’t prevent another, says HC

People belonging to a particular caste group cannot prevent, create hurdles or lay unreasonable conditions for celebration of temple festivals by those belonging to another caste, the Madras High Court Bench here has said.
Justice K. Chandru made the observation while allowing a writ petition filed by an individual representing the Kammavar Naidu community at T. Karisalkulam in Sivakasi taluk of Virudhunagar district against people belonging to Thevar community and others.
The petitioner had sought the district administration's permission as well as police protection for the Muthalamman Temple festival, celebrated once in five years, by his caste group to the exclusion of Thevars and others on September 5 and 6.
According to him, there was no permanent idol or temple as such in the village for the deity Muthalamman. The Goddess was represented by 13 holy stones and two stages, one at the start point, and another at the end point of the village.
It was only during the temple festival that the villagers create a clay idol of Muthalamman, perform a ritual of opening the eyes of the deity, take it on a procession around the village, and demolish it at the stage in the end point of the village.
The festival was being celebrated jointly by all caste groups since time immemorial. But a problem arose in 2007 when a few people sat on the temple car with their footwear in an inebriated mood and insisted on drawing them too along with the deity.
Agreeing with the submissions made by the petitioner, the Inspector of Vembakottai police station said that there were about 300 Naicker families and 130 Thevar families in the village. He also apprehended law and order problems during the festival this year.
In a counter affidavit, a representative of Thevar community contended that the petitioner's attempt to conduct the festival separately would lead to caste clashes apart from infringing the rights of all caste groups to worship the deity.
Disagreeing with such contentions, the judge said that following customary rituals was a fundamental right under Article 25 of the Constitution. Therefore, neither the petitioner nor his caste group could be prevented from conducting the festival separately. “The revenue and police authorities cannot be mute spectators when disturbances are created by a person or a group when one section of people wants to conduct a temple festival without any hindrance to others,” he concluded.

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