Viral video claims Dalit children barred from temple meal, Minister denies

Viral video claims Dalit children barred from temple meal, Minister denies

The video was allegedly shot at Uthamar Temple in Trichy, where a few children are seen eating from small leaves, sitting on the floor outside the temple’s mandapam where food was served to others.

Children eating food from a small leaf

After a video claimed that a few Dalit children in Tamil Nadu were allegedly forced to sit outside the temple floor and were excluded from the meal being served to others, Tamil Nadu Minister PK Sekar Babu has denied such an incident took place. He took to social media to share a video of the children sitting inside the temple and eating the meal with the rest of the people.

The viral video had allegedly shot at Uthamar Temple in Trichy, with a caption that Dalit children were “forced to sit on the ground and not served annadhanam.” The Annadhanam scheme, which offers free temple meals to the poor, was launched by the DMK government’s HR & CE Department and is currently active in 754 places across Tamil Nadu.

In the video, a child’s voice is heard saying that they were chased out from the mandapam where food was served, and were given food in small leaves instead. The child says and they were asked to be seated on the ground. In the video, the children are seen eating what seems to be plain curd rice served to them, with no other dishes. “This is the mandapam where food is served for annadhanam. As we looked like beggars, we were chased out. Saying that “you should not come inside,” they gave us food in these leaves. Others are eating inside but we are not allowed, see this,” the voice is heard and the video is pointed inside the mandapam.

Further, asking if this alleged treatment was “right”, the person states that it was the Uthamar temple. “We eat here regularly, but were not served today and I don’t know why,” the child’s voice says, adding that they were served leftover food daily and were sent out. “They were given bajji and payasam but we were given only leftover food. You tell, is this right?” the child added.

Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department, PK Sekar Babu, clarified that the incident did not take place. Sekar Babu posted a 13-second-long video from his Twitter handle that shows a few children eating with the others. He has also said, “After a news circulated in social media yesterday (23-04-2022) that annadhanam was not distributed to a particular section of people in Arulmigu Uthamar Temple, Manachanallur circle, Trichy district, a probe was ordered via the joint commissioner. When those people (sic) were asked, they said that no such disrespectful thing happened to them. It is also known that the news in social media was a false one,” he said. “Temple annadhanam was common to all,” he added.

Last October, Ashwini, a woman belonging to Narikuravar community had alleged discrimination under the scheme, and that she and members of her community were not allowed to enter the Sthalasayana Perumal temple. A video of a visibly angry Ashwini lashing out at the discrimination was shared widely. Following this, Minister Sekar Babu ate lunch with her in the same temple that had earlier refused to serve her food. Further, Chief Minister MK Stalin met her and after an invitation from Ashwini, Stalin also went to her home in Mamallapuram and spoke to her for some time.

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