Twenty-eight people have been arrested after clashes broke out between two caste groups in Vedaranyam town in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu on Sunday and a statue of BR Ambedkar was vandalised.
The statue has been replaced by a new bronze one.
According to police, an SUV belonging to one Pandian, of a local dominant caste, ran over one Ramachandran, belonging to the Dalit community, near the Vedaranyam bus stand around 5 pm on Sunday. As a crowd began to gather, Pandian fled the spot. However, his vehicle was set on fire. According to reports, the mob pelted stones at a nearby police station too.
About half an hour after this, Pandian’s supporters arrived at the spot and vandalised the statue of Ambedkar. They also attacked the government hospital where Ramachandran was admitted. Authorities then shifted him to Tiruvarur Government Hospital.
According to the police, the Vedaranyam police station had difficulty controlling the crowd as they were short-staffed, with many personnel deployed in bandobast duty at Velankanni’s annual festival. The situation could be brought under control only after police personnel from Nagapattinam and other neighboring districts like Thanjavur and Thiruvarur arrived at the scene.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, J.Loganathan, the Deputy Inspector General of Thanjavur range, said: “On Sunday around 5 pm, an accident occurred near the Vedaranyam bus stand. Following this, there was an argument between two groups. Fearing the mob, the person who was driving the car escaped from the spot, after which the argument turned physical. A group of people set fire to an SUV and in the next 40 minutes, another set of people gathered at the spot and vandalised the Ambedkar statue. As of now, we have arrested 28 members who indulged in this clash. They will be sent to judicial custody.”
Following the clash, bus services from Vedaranyam to Thiruthuraipoondi, Mannargudi, Thiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pattukkotai, etc were stopped. The bus stands and shops in the town wore a deserted look. Since Sunday, security has been beefed up in Vedaranyam, with additional forces deployed.
Loganathan said by Monday, the town was returning to normalcy and the bus services had resumed. “Under two SPs, DIG and IG, close to 750 police personnel have been deployed across the town. Shops have been opened and bus services have resumed. A new bronze Ambedkar statue has been installed at the same place where it was vandalised. We will initiate strict action against miscreants who indulge in these kinds of activities,” he said.
The incident triggered severe protests, with many members of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) taking to streets on Monday in Nagapattinam and other parts of Tamil Nadu.
Vanni Arasu, the deputy general secretary of VCK, says district police officers should be held responsible for this incident. “Hate-politics is growing in India. A problem between two people and has been turned into a caste clash. Since the police didn’t do anything to stop the violence, senior officers should be held responsible,” he said.
“In Vedaranyam, some community members were repeatedly trying to remove the Ambedkar statue. They have been uploading such videos on social media. Also, have you seen any other leader’s statue in TN being put in an iron cage, except Ambedkar’s? It’s an insult to us. We have been telling the administration to remove the iron cage. The government has the responsibility to educate future generations about great leaders like Ambedkar, putting an iron cage around it won’t secure it. We request the government to allocate special funds to install bronze statues of Ambedkar across the state. It should be treated on par with other leaders’ statues, it should be protected with CCTV cameras,” he added.