About 18 months of effort from the Perambalur district administration and police of Tamil Nadu of India seem to have brought a century-old conflict between the Hindu and Muslim villagers at V Kalathur to an end. On Saturday night, members of both communities pulled the temple chariot to kick off the same annual festival that historically was the flashpoint between the Hindus and Muslims here.
"The festival spans three days and involves processions with the deity through village streets, including streets on which Muslims live. Muslims have objected to this for over a century," says M Ramasamy, Chelliamman temple in charge.
With the conflict intensifying over the past 10 years, Collector P Sri Venkada Priya and SP S Mani started work on finding a permanent solution in the village, which has an equal number of Hindus and Muslims. Members of the Muslim community filed court cases against the festival in 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021. The Madras High Court reportedly allowed the festival to be held, although it wasn't celebrated last year due to the pandemic.
"We held several peace talks with both communities over one-and-a-half years, and provided basic facilities, such as drainage canals, in the Muslim localities. Gradually, both communities started cooperating so we could further our aim of social harmony," Priya says.
'We wanted to end conflict as it marred development'
"Since the Muslims opposed the festival, we approached them and started resolving their long-pending problems. This helped them trust us and respect our efforts to ensure the festival is held amicably. We are glad the century-old problem has ended," the SP explains. Their efforts started to bear fruit. Three months ago, the Muslim community invited the Hindus to their Santhana Koodu festival.
"Our village has been plagued by problems, such as vandalism, due to this conflict for several years. It has affected development. To move forward, we invited the Hindus to our festival. They accepted the invitation and participated. Similarly, we are participating in their festival," says V Kalathur Sunnath Val Jamath Secretary A Jafar Ali.
On Saturday, the Hindus visited the village mosque and invited the Muslims to their temple festival. The Muslims accepted, and both parties started the festival that night by pulling the temple chariot together. The Collector and SP too were present, along with more than 100 police personnel. "There was unity and harmony... In the future too, the festival should be held in unity.
This time, there was police protection, but we will build confidence so it won't be required in the future," Ramasamy says. Ali too believes that from now on, both communities will join hands and seek the development of the village. "We hope future generations will be able to live here without any problems," he adds.About three months ago, the Muslim community invited the Hindus to their Santhana Koodu festival, and now, the Hindus invited them to their annual temple festival. Both communities say they will join hands to seek peace and development.
Hindus, Muslims unite for temple festival in Tamil Nadu
Published: 20:43, 1 August 2022