Five persons were killed and 30 others injured when the police opened fire on a stone-pelting mob at Paramakudi about 35 km from Ramanathapuram on Sunday.

Paramakudi town, which drew a large number of people, particularly Dalits, to pay homage to their leader Immanuel Sekaran on the occasion of his 54th death anniversary, turned into a battlefield between the agitators and the police personnel. Scores of policemen were injured and a number of government vehicles including a riot control vehicle and fire tenders torched down by the agitators.

The trouble started when a group of 200 persons, mostly belonging to the Tamizhaga Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK), staged a road roko at Five Point Junction, demanding the release of their leader John Pandian. The TMMK leader was arrested by the police in Vallanadu, Tuticorin district, when he was about to proceed towards Paramakudi about 60 km farther.

Initially, the police held negotiations with the agitators, asking them to give up the protest. When the negotiations were on, some miscreants threw stones and footwear at the police, following which the mob was lathicharged. The police also burst teargas shells at the protestors. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, in a statement, said that the agitators, however, continued indulging in violence. The police had to resort to firing in which three persons were unfortunately killed. (Later, the casualty figure rose to five). Only after that, did the mob disperse, she added, announcing the sanction of solatium of Rs. one lakh each to the families of the deceased.

The Chief Minister stated that the police firing was made in self-defence and to protect public property. She also pointed out that number of police personnel including a Deputy Inspector General of Police were injured as a result of violence by the TMMK.

But, the TMMK Madurai District Secretary T. Saravana Pandian complained that the Dalits who had gathered to protest at Paramakudi were shot at indiscriminately by the police without “giving any warning”.

Three persons, who received bullet injuries, died on the spot. While one body was taken to the government hospital at Paramakudi, the other two were sent to the government hospital in Ramanathapuram.The other two bodies were kept at Madurai and Ilayankudi hospitals.

In Madurai, the police and a group of the TMMK workers were engaged in an altercation following which the police resorted to firing and two persons were injured.

It may be recalled that a Dalit youth Palanikumar (16) was allegedly hacked to death by a group of 10 persons early on Saturday when he was returning after watching a play. Following his murder, tension had built up in and around Kamudhi and Mudukulathur areas.