Dalits hailing from Uthapuram in this district today prayed at Sri Muthalamman temple after the long-standing dispute with caste Hindus of the village was resolved.
Both the sides were at loggerheads for the past 20 years over offering worship in the temple.
The enmity between them was so much so that the caste Hindus even built a dividing wall to prevent access to Dalits from using common road running through their area in 1989. A portion of the wall was demolished in 2008, after the intervention of the CPM and human rights organisations.
There were also frequent clashes between the two communities over offering worship in the temple and several cases were pending against people belonging to both communities.
The issue was resolved last month following efforts by Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, District Collector U Sagayam and Superintendent of Police Asra Garg.
Leaders of the caste Hindu community today welcomed the Dalits to the temple. They also participated in the special puja at the temple.
Sankaralingam and Ponniah, the Dalit leaders, told reporters that they were "very happy" after offering worship at the temple.
They said their community members had forgotten all the past skirmishes and bitter incidents.
It was also decided to withdraw all the cases and remain united in future, Sankaralingam said.
The caste Hindu leaders said they would remain united with local Dalits and in future they would also perform the consecration and festivals unitedly.
Uthapuram village witnessed three major caste clashes in 1948, 1964 and 1989 over the issue. There were several casualties on all the three occasions. Many cases were filed and efforts to conduct peace talks earlier had failed.
The clash between the two communities and construction of the dividing wall in the village became a national issue. Top leaders from Left parties including Brinda Karat had visited the village demanding to demolish the wall and allow the Dalits to pray in the temple and use the common road.
One person died when police opened fire to quell the violence due to clashes between the two sides in 2009.
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