Representatives from both groups feel another meeting may break the deadlock
In a significant move towards finding an amicable solution to the crisis, caste Hindus of Kallimedu village in Nagapattinam district seem to be inclined to consider the demand of Dalits to hostmandagapadi for a day as part of Sri Badrakaliamman temple.
Nagapattinam Collector S. Palanisamy had clamped a ban on conducting the seven-day annual Aadi festival of the temple, scheduled to begin on August 8, as tripartite talks failed to break the deadlock over the right claimed by Dalits of Pazhag Kallimedu to host mandagapadi for a day.
The caste Hindus had rejected the four alternatives put forth by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) contending that they cannot deviate from the age-old practices and customs over the rituals of the temple, which is said to be about 800 years old.
After the Collector banned the festival, which is said to have never been disrupted over several decades, both caste Hindus and the Dalits held a few rounds of formal and informal consultations in their respective hamlets. A few representatives of Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK) have been staying in the village to find a way out to conduct the festival.
On her part, State president of BJP Tamilisai Soundararajan visited the village and met representatives of the two communities on Monday and appealed them to give up the rigid stand on the issue.
While stating that the residents of the village were pained over the ban on temple festival, A. Sivasubramanian, one of the members of the caste Hindu group, told The Hindu that a section of them had felt the need to find a solution to conduct the festival as per the schedule by taking Dalits on board. Consultations were on to find a consensus on arriving at a solution. We do not want to be branded as anti-Dalit and we want to set a standard and take all parties on board,” he said.
Peace meeting as solution
Mr. Sivasubramanian felt that the administration could have conducted one more peace meeting before banning the festival, as a solution could not be expected for a sensitive issue within a few hours of consultation.
A delegation was likely to meet the Nagapattinam Collector on Wednesday, seeking his intervention to resume negotiation by involving all stakeholders again.
Rama.Ravikumar, general secretary, Hindu Makkal Katchi, said most of the caste Hindus and Dalits wanted the festival to be held.
The State government should take immediate steps to resume the talks, he said.
K.Tamilselvam, a representative of the Dalits, too observed that the district administration should conduct another round of talks within the next few days as they too did not favour the ban on the temple festival.
Indications are that caste Hindus are inclined to consider the Dalits to host mandagapadi on Saturday, the sixth day of the festival, as there is no major engagement on the day except “fire pot procession” in the early hours.