Police firing kills 5 Dalits in Tamil Nadu
Tension gripped caste-sensitive Southern districts of Sivaganganga, Ramanathapuram and Madurai after police firing on a group of stone-throwing dalit protesters killed 5 of them and injured another two on Sunday afternoon.india Updated: Sep 12, 2011 12:17 IST
Tension gripped caste-sensitive Southern districts of Sivaganganga, Ramanathapuram and Madurai after police firing on a group of stone-throwing dalit protesters killed 5 of them and injured another two on Sunday afternoon.
Police claimed that they had to resort to firing at Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram, some 530 m south of Chennai, after the dalit groups pelted stones, set shops, police vehicles and buses ablaze. The dalits were protesting the detaining of their leader John Pandian, who was prevented from entering Ramanathapuram as his presence at Paramakudi would have incited more trouble, police feared. In neighbouring Madurai too, police fired against rampaging mob that set fire to police vehicles. Two persons were injured in the Madurai firing, one seriously.
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa was quick to announce compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the kin of the three killed in firing but condemned the violence in Ramanthapuram. She asserted that "police opened fire in self defence and to protect public property." In a statement, she said, "mob attacked police, threw petrol bombs and toched police vehicles."
The trouble began after a dalit party, Tamizhaga Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) blocked roads outside Paramakudi to protest the detention of Pandian to prevent him from reaching the small town of Paramakudi, where the memorial of Immanuvel Sekaran, a dalit leader who was killed in 1957, is located.
Pandian has been trying to claim leadership of the dalits in the region, especially after his acquittal in a murder case by the Supreme Court . But he could not win a single seat in the assembly despite contesting in five as against another dalit outfit, Puthiya Tamizhagam led by Dr D Krishnaswamy which won two seats in alliance with AIADMK.
Angered by his detention, over 3000 of his supporters gathered at Paramakudi went on rampage and pelted stones at police, set fire to shops, buses and police vehicles. Two senior officials – DIG Sandeep Mittal and Deputy Commissioner KA Senthivelan – were injured in the stone pelting, police said.
As they were heavily outnumbered, and lathi charge having failed, police had to open fire to quell the situation, an officer said. The police prevented entry of more TMMK supporters into Paramakudi town, which in turn sparked off more tension.
One group of supporters, stopped on the Outer Ring Road of Madurai, too went on the rampage, setting two police jeeps on fire. Here too police fired, injuring two. One of them was in a serious condition at government hospital in Madurai, according to a senior police official.
Hundreds of vehicles with TMMK members are line along the roads in the three districts of Ramanthapuram (where Paramakudi is located), Madurai and Sivaganga.)
Southern Tamil Nadu is the hotbed of caste tension between Thevars, the most backward caste and dalits. Thevars hold memorial prayers for their leader Pon Muthuramalingam on every October 30 and the Dalits show their strength by commemorating the death anniversary of Immanuel Sekaran on September 10 and congregate in large numbers.
“Since the two groups try their best to provoke the other, it poses a serious law and order challenge every year,” said a senior police officer who has served in Ramanathapuram.
According to state DGP K. Ramanujam additional forces have been mobilized and supporters of John Pandian are being persuaded to return home. “We are confident of restoring normality by Monday morning,” he said.