Lawyers and policemen clashed for over two hours on the premises of the Madras High Court on Thursday, leaving around 20 people injured. A high court judge and two news photographers caught were also hurt. The situation was brought under control after the Rapid Action Force, the Special Action Group and the Tamil Nadu police commandoes were called in.
After a near-month long boycott of the courts to protest against the purported indifference of both the state and Centre towards the plight of Lankan Tamils, the lawyers returned to work on Thursday.
The trigger for the violence was the presence of Janata Party leader and former union minister Subramanium Swamy in the court. Swamy had been assaulted by a group of lawyers on January 17 for having been a critic of the LTTE.
Swamy, who had come for an unrelated matter, departed without incident. A group of lawyers led by one S. Rajnikanth then went to the police station located inside the court premises and complained that Swamy, while walking along the court’s verandah, had made derogatory remarks about the lawyers. However, some of the lawyers were detained by the police and told they were being arrested for the earlier assault on Swamy. “A furious argument began and all hell broke loose,” said an eyewitness.
Within minutes, with the lawyers pelting stones and the police retaliating with lathi charge, it was complete mayhem. Even judges who came out to pacify the combatants were beaten, with one A P Adityan having to be hospitalized.