Chennai, Sep 7 (IANS) — The Nadar community of Sirumalanji village in Tirunelveli district is worried that the gods will not take too kindly to an order by the Jayalalitha government that stops people from offering animal sacrifices in temples.
Devotee S. Senthilvel Nadar of the district has moved the Madras High Court seeking a stay of the government order.
Following the issue of the order last month police and district authorities have been instructed to interrupt temple ceremonies and arrest offenders. Jayalalitha even suspended a police officer for being on duty at a temple in Madurai district and witnessing a goat sacrifice.
Opposition parties have also condemned the order. The PMK, the DMK and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) have said the Prevention of Sacrifices of Animals and Birds Act should be revoked and those arrested under it released.
CPI-M state secretary N. Varadharajan said the custom was “part and parcel” of the lives of Dalits and other backward classes and the order would offend them.
Petitioner Nadar said thousands of devotees from the Dalit community had gathered at the Othapanai Sudalai Andavar temple in his district to celebrate the annual temple festival in which hens and goats are sacrificed.
Hundreds of policemen have surrounded the temple to stop the sacrifices, leading to an ugly situation.
Nadar said the anti-sacrifice act violated the provisions of article 14 and 25 of the constitution that give one the freedom to practise one’s own religion.
The court has admitted the petition and sent a notice to the home secretary and district police officials, returnable in four weeks.
Soon after Jayalalitha’s order in August, devotees went ahead with the sacrifice of hundreds of goats and hens at the Pandi Muneeswara temple near Madurai district.
Local people point out that devotees from Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Theni and Virudhunagar districts come in thousands to the temple and sacrifices are offered. Then non-vegetarian ‘prasad’, or food blessed by the gods, is distributed.
Most devotees of this temple are farmers. On Tuesdays and Fridays, as many as 100 goats are sacrificed.
Sacrifices have been reported from many more temples, including the Thyamangalam Amman temple in Sivanganga district and temples in Sattur and Virudhunagar.
Papri Sri Raman
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