An attempt to ensure temple entry for Dalits, led by the district Revenue Divisional Officer, was blocked by a violent mob at Chettipulam on Wednesday, leading to firing of buckshots in the air and lathi-charge by police.

Violence erupted when a group of Dalits, led by RDO Rajendran, was stopped by about 300 people protesting against their entry into the temple on the road leading to the Ekambareshwarar temple here.

Even as the RDO held talks with the protesters, the mob turned violent. When the RDO was manhandled, police intervened and the protesters responded by throwing stones, logs, iron rods and bottles. Two policemen, the RDO and his driver suffered minor injuries and two police vans and the RDO's vehicle were damaged.

Earlier in the day, the Dalits, led by Marimuthu, Member of Legislative Assembly, Nagapattinam, belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), led a group up to the entrance of Moongiladi road, a 1 km-stretch from the temple.

Sensing trouble, the RDO sought to lead the Dalits from there to the temple.

The mob that had blocked the road placed tree logs, concrete tunnel pipes etc at intermittent gaps.

The police force led by Superintendent of Police Maheshwar Dayal cleared the pathways. The police made random checks and enquired with persons to ascertain their involvement in the rioting.

Wednesday's agitation was the culmination of the temple entry agitation initiated by the CPI(M) a fortnight ago as a part of its State-wide agitation.

The earlier agitation was settled through peace talks on October 8 and it was decided that the Dalits would be led into the Ekambeshwarar temple by the RDO to offer prayers on Wednesday.

According to the Revenue Inspector Nagarajan, trouble was anticipated as a meeting of about 400 people was held in the village on Monday and they had decided to block the temple entry by Dalits. This was conveyed to the Vedaranyam Deputy Superintendent of Police. According to RDO Rajendran, none of the protesters was present during the peace talks.

About 50 police personnel were deployed on Wednesday morning and the strength was increased later. Abhay Kumar Singh, Deputy Inspector General of Police, along with the Superintendents of Police, Maheshwar Dayal of Nagapattinam, Praveen Kumar Avinabu of Thiruvarur and Senthil Velan of Thanjavur, were present.

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