A group of lawyers objecting to the participation of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi at a function to unveil the statue of B.R. Ambedkar in the Madras High Court were assaulted by a section in the audience.

Immediately after the Chief Minister began his speech, a dozen advocates, belonging to a Tamil nationalist fringe group, Manitha Urimai Paathukaapu Maiyam, waved black flags and raised slogans against him. “Anumathiyom! Anumathiyom! (We won't allow!)” they shouted, even as Mr Karunanidhi, unfazed, continued with his speech.

Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court H.L. Gokhale, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Supreme Court Judge P. Sathasivam, and Law Minister Durai Murugan were among those on the dais with the Chief Minister. A section of the audience in front threw chairs at the protesters, who were at the far end, and assaulted them. Chennai Police Commissioner T. Rajendran and Additional Commissioner (Law and Order) Shakeel Akhter intervened and prevented further attacks.

The attackers were seen chasing the protesting advocates. Cameramen of satellite TV channels covering the incident were also attacked, and the cameras of NDTV-Hindu and Jaya TV were broken.

The injured lawyers were treated as outpatients at the Government Royapettah hospital. Police arrested K. Suresh, Jimraj Milton, G. Thiyagu, S. Parthasarathy, Solomon and M. Muneeswaran from hospital. They were released on bail later.

Durairaj and Ezhilarasu, members of the Ambedkar Puratchi Munnani, were also arrested and remanded to judicial custody. Police said two more persons were absconding.

Speaking to TheHindu, Suresh, the leader of the group, said they objected to the presence of the Chief Minister, because he had failed to take action against the four officers who he said were responsible for the police action against the advocates on the High Court campus on February 19, 2009.

“We are not against unveiling of the statue and the presence of judges and others,” he said. The group distributed pamphlets explaining the reasons for their protest.

The Chief Minister said in his 70 years public life, he had faced innumerable protests, ridicule and stone pelting incidents. However, “we will not bow before uncivilised attempts to undermine democracy,” he said.