At least 10 Dalit huts were torched and 15 people, including a SP and six other policemen, were injured when upper-caste Vanniyars attacked a procession of Dalits in Seshasamuthiram village of Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram district late on Saturday evening.
Police said that the attack was a fallout of long-pending dispute over Dalits’ right to bring out a temple car procession through the village’s main road, which passes through a Vanniyar-dominated area. According to a police report, Seshasamuthiram has over 3,000 Vanniyars and only 400 Dalits.
“The dispute has been pending for the past four years. Vanniyars had objected to the procession and the government, too, had been denying permission, citing law and order problems. But this year, the administration decided to allow Dalits to take out the procession. The Vanniyars responded by attacking the Dalits and torching the temple car. They set their huts on fire and also hurled petrol bombs at police,” said a senior police officer.
Immediately after the violence broke out, large number of police teams rushed to the spot. “SP K S Narendran Nair rushed to the village with a police team, but they were not able to enter the area as the Vanniyars started pelting stones. The SP and six other policemen were injured. We had to fire several rounds in the air before we could enter the Dalit localities where huts had been set on fire. Even fire tenders were not allowed entry by the Vanniyar groups. They also disconnected power supply to the entire area,” said the officer. He added that tension is still prevailing in the area and over 400 armed personnel have been deployed to prevent untoward incidents.
The officer further said that many of the attackers are supporters of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and were returning from a demonstration organised by PMK leader and former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss. Vanniyars are a core voter base of the PMK.