Trouble began when police stopped Popular Front march past on the Ramanathapuram–Rameswaram national highway.

At least 18 people, including an Inspector of Police and a press photographer, were injured as a ‘Unity March’ taken out by the members of Popular Front of India (PFI) turned violent, forcing police to burst teargas and resort to lathicharge here on Monday evening.

The PFI had planned a public meeting at Sandai Thidal after a rally here on the occasion of the PFI Foundation Day, but trouble broke out even before the rally started on the Ramanathapuram–Rameswaram national highway, when volunteers insisted on taking out a rally beating drums, violating police orders.

As the district was prone to communal tension, Inspector-General of Police (South Zone) Abhay Kumar Singh rushed to the spot and took stock of the situation after discussions with Superintendent of Police N.M.Mylvahanan.

The trouble started when police stopped the volunteers when they attempted to take out the rally in uniform resembling the dress armymen wear and beating drums. Violence broke out with police being pelted with stones at Kumaraya Koil bus stop on the national highway.

As the situation threatened to go out of control, police burst teargas shells and dispersed the crowd. Soon, traffic on the national highway came to a grinding halt as the volunteers squatted on the road, protesting against police action. Normalcy was restored after more than two hours when the PFI announced the decision to call off the public meeting and disperse.

“The situation is under control and police picket has been posted in all trouble-torn areas,” Mr.Mylvahanan, told reporters at the spot. He said police used only mild force to disperse the violent crowd.

He said though the police had denied permission in writing for any kind of drill or rally by members in uniform resembling the attire of armymen, the volunteers tried to violate the order. When the police stopped them, some persons threw stones at policemen, he said.

Besides four police personnel, S.Anandakrishnan, Daily Thanthi photographer, nine PFI volunteers and four onlookers were injured in stone-throwing and stampede. They were treated at the Government headquarters hospital here, the SP said.

PFI State President A.S.Ismail said they had organised the public meeting only after obtaining prior police permission. As they could not get police protection, they called off the meeting.

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