Over 260 houses torched, police arrest 90 persons
Three colonies of Dalits (of the Adi-Dravida community) near Naikkankottai in Dharmapuri district of western Tamil Nadu remained benumbed on Thursday by the fury unleashed on them by a rampaging mob of caste Hindus on Wednesday.
As many as 268 dwellings – huts, tiled-roof and one or two-room concrete houses – were torched by the mob after a caste Hindu man, Nagarajan, committed suicide over his daughter marrying a Dalit boy from one of the colonies. Police said there was no casualty as occupants of the houses escaped and took shelter in another village. Ninety persons were arrested by Thursday evening and cases registered against another 500 “unidentified” persons.
The prime target of the attack was Natham Colony, whose resident, Ilavarasan (23) had married N. Divya (20), a caste Hindu. But, the mob’s fury was also directed at the adjoining Anna Nagar Colony and Kondampatti Old and New Colonies.
It is said that Ilavarasan and Divya got married in a temple a month ago. Fearing attack by caste Hindus, the couple approached the Deputy Inspector of General of Police, Salem Range, Sanjay Kumar, only a week ago for protection. Though the police assured them safety, a kangaroo court directed Ilavarasan’s family to return the girl on Wednesday. The girl refused to go with her father, who later hanged himself at his house in Sellankottai, just half a km from the Dalit colonies. And then, the mobs went on the rampage.
According to police, one group of incensed members of his community protested on the Dharmapuri-Tiruppattur Road, blocking traffic with the trees they felled as well as with boulders and signboards. At the same time, another group entered the Dalit colonies and set ablaze the dwellings. The Dalits alleged that their houses were looted and the valuables taken away. The attack started around 4.45 p.m. and went on till 7 p.m. Police reinforcements and fire tenders could not reach the spot in time because of the hurdles placed on the road leading to the colonies. Some vehicles of the Dalits too were torched. The mob fled when police reinforcements arrived.
Superintendent of Police, Krishnagiri, M. Ashok Kumar, reached the spot and took control of the situation, as Dharmapuri’s SP Asra Garg was away in Madurai. Mr. Garg, however, reached the spot at night.
Police personnel drawn from five districts restored order. Fire tenders put out the blaze in the colonies and recovery vans were deployed to clear the road blocks.
A core police team headed by Mr. Sanjay Kumar worked out strategies to keep the situation under control. Inspector-General of Police (West Zone), visited the colonies on Thursday and supervised the security arrangements and the investigation into the attack. Police said Ilavarasan and Divya were safe and under police protection.
After spending the night in shock, fear and without shelter, close to 1,500 Dalits were on Thursday accommodated in Government schools.
District Collector R. Lilly visited the affected persons and ordered relief for them.