Published: 19th September 2019
'God' told these Pudukottai villagers to raze down a school and build a temple
Parents, teachers and children of the panchayat school in Rajabahadur, a village in the outskirts of Pudukkottai were shocked when they found a deity had been raised in the campus
Liquor shops being an impediment to schools and education is a passe. It’s now the turn of religious structures. A group of caste Hindus in a Pudukkottai village threatened to immolate themselves on Tuesday, after revenue officials tried to thwart their attempts to build a temple inside the local panchayat union elementary school campus. The group claimed that God instructed them to build a temple on the exact spot.
They even demanded that the school be razed down to accommodate a temple. Sources, however, told Express the “drama” was part of an ongoing caste tension in the village.
Parents, teachers and children of the panchayat school in Rajabahadur, a village in the outskirts of Pudukkottai, were shocked on Monday, when they found a deity had been raised and foundation stones laid for a temple right in front of the school main door, inside the campus.
Last Friday, when they left, there were no such structures there. “When we arrived on Monday, we saw a deity installed. Some pooja seemed to have been performed,” said the school headmaster.
“When we asked around, we were told that a group had laid the foundation stone. We immediately informed higher authorities.” Based on the complaint, revenue officials visited the school on Tuesday.
“The land is panchayat property,” says RDO MS Dhandayathapani. “A decision was taken to remove the temple, but a group of villagers prevented us from doing so and threatened us. The group claimed the god had asked them to build the temple in the place where the school stands.”
As the group did not heed to revenue officials, police intervened. “They initially resisted our request to remove the deity. But upon negotiation, they have agreed to remove it completely by the end of this week. We have given them time till Sunday,” claimed sub-inspector Kanagaraj. “We will ensure the property of the panchayat is retained.”
Other villagers, however, told Express this group’s action was part of a larger caste tension in the village. “They just want to stir up controversy and create trouble,” claimed one villager. “There is tension between the two caste groups in the village. While one caste group has a temple of its own on private land that it owns, the other group has been wanting one too.” The villager further alleged that knowing the school stands on public land, the group decided to “stage” this episode to get a temple of their own.
The claims, however, could not be independently verified. A majority of the villagers opposed the demand to build a temple on the school land. “This school has been here more than a decade. It can’t be razed down just because one community of people want their temple there. There are umpteen other places in the village where they can build their temple,” says Karunanithi, a villager.