The district police on Saturday arrested eight Dalits, including a local functionary of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), in connection with burning of huts at Athurnahalli village on Friday night.

They were accused of trying to promote enmity between Dalits and caste-Hindus by burning the huts they themselves had put up and blaming it on a caste-Hindu.

Police sources told The Hindu that the makeshift huts were erected by the Dalits on the land for which they were issued pattas in 1994.

The entire land was acquired by the government from P. Sekar alias Venkatasamy (55), a caste-Hindu of the same village.

Though the pattas were issued, the land was not divided and handed over to the Dalits. The land owner went to court in the year 2002 against the land acquisition and the judgment went in his favour in 2006.

Subsequently, officials from the District Adi Dravidar Welfare issued a notice to the Dalits, but failed to cancel the patta. A month ago, the Dalits put up some huts on the land.

It was alleged that district deputy secretary of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) M. Rajagopal had encouraged the Dalits to erect the huts and then set fire to them on Friday night. As soon as the huts were on fire, a complaint was lodged against caste-Hindus. On the basis of the complaint, the police arrested two persons, including Sekar.

Superintendent of Police Asra Garg said they were released later after an inquiry found that these temporarily put-up huts were burnt by those who had lodged the complaint.

Besides the VCK functionary, police arrested P. Muruguan (38) of Athurnahalli, K. Nagaraj (30) and K. Govindaraj (32)of Porathur, N. Palani (55) of Sengalbasuvanthala area in Jolikottai, M. Masamani (36) and M. Muthusamy (52) of Athurnalali and G. Perumal (30) of Porathur.

They were produced before the Palacode Judicial Magistrate, who remanded them in judicial custody. Later they were lodged at the Salem central prison.

Mahendramangalam police have registered a case under Indian Penal Code Sections 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house), 294 B (obscene act and songs), 143 (unlawful assembly), 506 (2) (criminal intimidation), 153 A (promoting enmity between two groups), 447 (criminal trespass), 211 (false charge of offence made with intent to injure) and Section 3 of Tamil Nadu Public Properties (Prevention of Damages and Loss) Act.

P. Shanthi, District Adi Dravidar Welfare Officer told The Hindu that the district administration was in the process of sending a fresh proposal to the government to cancel the patta issued to Dalits in Athuranahalli village.

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