Chennai Police Commissioner R. Sekar was transferred and an assistant commissioner suspended on Thursday, a day after students of two communities clashed at Dr Ambedkar Government Law College here while the police watched from the sidelines.
Four students were critically injured as the students had a go at each other. The police, present in large numbers, failed to act, waiting for a go-ahead from the principal. College principal K.K. Shridev has been suspended and seven students arrested.
Earlier in the day, all the six law colleges in the state were closed for two days and semester exams put off.
The violence broke out Wednesday evening. A group of upper caste students attacked some classmates, from another caste, when they were returning from an exam, the police said.
The group started hitting a classmate, Arumugam, with clubs as he was trying to flee, eyewitnesses said. He collapsed near the college gate, but the police didn’t come to his rescue or that of his friends — Bharathikannan, Ayyaadurai and Chitiraiselvan. (Their full names couldn’t be ascertained as the students are, too, traumatised to speak.)
The police couldn’t act as the principal didn’t give them the permission, Sekar said.
Arumugam, admitted to the trauma ward of General Hospital, is critical. His friends are said to be out of danger.
Tension had been building up between the two sides after the college celebrated the 101st birthday of freedom fighter Pasumponn Muthuramalinga Thevar almost two weeks ago. Students from ‘Thevar’ community had put up posters which did not prefix “Dr. Ambedkar” to the college name. Dalit students took it as an insult. And, matters came to a head on Wednesday evening.
The opposition raised the issue in the assembly. AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa demanded Chief Minister M. Karunandhi’s resignation for police inaction. The Chief Minister holds the home portfolio.
Rejecting the demand, Law and PWD Minister Durai Murugan said retired judge P. Shanmugam would hold a judicial inquiry into the clash.
He said two police officials, including Assistant Commissioner Narayan Murthy, had been suspended and four policemen transferred.