A day after violence broke out in Devipattinam following clashes between two groups, police on Saturday launched a crackdown and arrested 11 persons, including village panchayat president S. Zakhir Hussain and two juveniles.

The police had opened fire in the air on Friday night to disperse the two groups which attacked each other with stones.

Violence broke out when a group of men and women took out a religious procession through two places of worship, beating drums and carrying ‘vel kavadi’ and ‘pal kavadi’ in connection with the annual temple festival.

After bringing the situation under control, the police called 20 accused from both the groups and arrested 11 of them. Zakhir Hussain is a local leader of Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), the police said.

They were produced before a magistrate court and remanded in judicial custody. The two juveniles have been sent to a home in Melur.

On a complaint filed by Muthu Selvam, Sub-Inspector of Police, who opened fire in the air, the police registered a case against the 20 named accused and some others under Sections 147, 148, 341 and 188 of the Indian Penal Code, the police added.

Meanwhile, normalcy returned to the coastal village. “Things are under control and stern action would be taken against anyone who indulge in violence,” Superintendent of Police N.M.Mylvahanan warned.

Police pickets have been posted in front of two places of worship and other sensitive places. Shops remained open. The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) denied its involvement in the violence.

The SDPI was nowhere in the picture and the police had unnecessarily dragged its name into the controversy, said SDPI district president M.I.Noor Jiyabudeen.

“Our members neither prevented the procession nor indulged in stone throwing,” he said, and condemned the police for trying to project the SDPI in bad light.

Local MLA and MMK leader M.H.Jawahirullah, in a petition to Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa, alleged that the police had foisted a case against Mr.Hussain and demanded a fair investigation and arrest of those involved in violence.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a 23-year-old man at Mela Pallivasal alleged that the other group timed their procession to pass through their place of worship when the evening prayer was going on. “We shut all the glass doors and were praying to avoid any problem, but they continued to beat drums and dance, disturbing the prayers,” he alleged.

On being provoked, they questioned them, resulting in a wordy duel and subsequent violence, he told The Hindu.

V.Vadivelu, leader of the Padayachi community, and others, however, denied the allegation.

They said the procession passed through the two places of worship well ahead of the prayer time and trouble broke out when the other group attacked a few women who were coming at end of the procession. “All of us have reached the temple, half a km away from the mosque, when they came to our area and threw stones,” they said, showing their street strewn with stones and broken tube lights.

They said they had been maintaining cordial relations with the other group and had been celebrating the festival for the past two decades without any trouble. Problems began to surface only after Mr.Hussain became the village president, they alleged.

The panchayat president was instigating violence and disturbing religious harmony with the connivance of the youth settled in Kuppam area, they alleged.

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