The police on Thursday fired in the air to disperse angry mobs at Marakanam following clashes between the Vanniar Sangam volunteers and Dalits.

At least five vehicles, including three State-owned buses of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, were burnt down and windscreens of more than 30 vehicles were smashed in different places along East Coast Road from Puducherry to Marakanam. Scores of volunteers, residents of Marakanam, passers-by, passengers and onlookers were injured when the clashes erupted between the members of Vanniar Sangam and others at different villages.

According to police, a man was fatally knocked down by a vehicle near a tollgate on ECR when he was trying to block vehicles. His identity was yet to be known.

According to police sources, the trouble began when a vehicle, which was on the way to attend the annual Chitra Pournami youth festival at Mamallapuram, hit a motor cycle, driven by a Dalit of Marakkanam, in which two persons were injured. In protest, a large number of people staged a road roko at Marakkanam. Since they were about to clash directly with the Vanniar Sangam volunteers, the police opened fire to disperse the angry mobs.

In a sequel to the incident, a group of unknown persons set fire to the houses of six Dalits at Marakkanam. Irked over this, the agitators again blocked the road traffic.

In the melee, five vehicles, which were caught between the agitators and volunteers, and were set on fire by the irate mobs. Several cars, buses and others were attacked. They also attacked the police vehicles including the vehicle of the Superintendent of Police, Villupuram, Manoharan, forcing the police to disperse them by opening lathicharge.

The impact of the violence was felt all along a 30 km stretch from Puducherry to Marakkanam.

The Vanniar Sangam volunteers, who were asked to return following the violence, smashed the tollgate on ECR road, cash boxes, CCTV and attacked the security personnel. They directed their anger at onlookers along the villages. In some places, there were retaliatory attacks.

S. Sivamurugan (34), security guard at the tollgate, who sustained injury in the attack said inebriated youths attacked him with bottles. Other employees ran to take shelter in a nearby village to save their lives.

The Inspector General of Police, North Zone, P. Kannappan told The Hindu that the situation had been brought under control. Additional forces had been brought from various places. The immediate priority was to prevent further violence as the participants of the youth festival needed to return home.

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