Death toll goes up to six; police say situation under control in violence-affected areas

Even as an uneasy calm prevailed in many parts of Ramanathapuram district on Monday, a day after the police opened fire on Dalit protesters at Paramakudi near here, the death toll went up to six.

After post-mortem, the bodies of two of the victims were taken to their respective villages from hospitals in Ramanathapuram and Parmakudi under tight police security. The last rites were performed in the presence of a large number of police and revenue personnel.

Five Point Junction, which bore the brunt of the violence, wore a deserted look. A large number of stones were strewn along the arterial roads of the town, particularly the Madurai-Rameswaram highway, Mudukulathur and Ilayangudi roads.

Almost all shops and business establishments in Paramakudi town remained closed for the second consecutive day. Similarly, fearing a backlash, most of the shops put up the shutters in Ramanathapuram, Tiruvadanai, Parthibanur, Abiramam, Kamudhi, Kadaladi, Mudukulathur and other areas. Schools and colleges remained closed. All TASMAC shops in the district have been closed indefinitely.

Bus services to various sensitive places were suspended for the second consecutive day. There was no movement of public transport to Paramakudi, Mudukulathur, Kamudhi, Parthibanur and other places. Bus connectivity between Rameswaram and Madurai, via Ramanathapuram and Paramakudi, also remained suspended. However, services between Rameswaram and Tiruchi were resumed.

Additional reinforcement of police personnel, including Deputy Inspector Generals and the Superintendents of Police, drawn from various districts of the State, have been sent to places which had witnessed caste violence in the past. Mobile parties, with Armed Reserve police, have been asked to monitor the movement of anti-social elements.

Rajesh Das, Inspector General of Police, South Zone, who held several rounds of meetings with police personnel at Parmakudi, told The Hindu that the situation was under control. All experienced officers had been brought to the district for bandobust. Adequate police strength was drawn from various parts. There would not be any more incidents.

Asked what prompted the police to open fire, Mr. Das said since the matter was to be probed by an inquiry commission it was not proper for him to speak about it.

Collector V. Arun Roy, who visited the injured at the hospitals, said that normality was restored in the district. The revenue officials, with magisterial powers, have been posted at many places.

Attempt to set bus on fire

Virudhunagar Staff Reporter writes:

Miscreants attempted to set afire a State-run bus and smashed the windscreen of another vehicle in the district on Monday.

Timely intervention by the Fire and Rescue Service personnel saved the bus from being charred.

The police said that the fire was noticed at around 2 p.m. on the Virudhunagar-Sankaralingapuram town bus parked in the Old Bus Stand. Local people alerted Fire and Rescue Service personnel who rushed to the spot.

Earlier, a mob of around 20 persons destroyed the windscreens of a town bus near Sivakasi. After intercepting the Sivakasi-Sattur town bus at Mayiladumparai, the mob broke the windshield with clubs and by throwing stones. No passenger was injured.

On Sunday, incidents of damaging two buses, one at Amathur and another at Soolakarai, were reported in the district.

Over 500 persons blocked the Virudhunagar-Srivilliputtur road at Senkundrapuram on Monday morning demanding Rs.10 lakh compensation for the families of those killed in police firing on Sunday at Paramakudi. They also sought release of all those arrested.

Three bodies sent amid tight security

Staff Reporter from Madurai writes:

Post-mortem was conducted on the bodies of three Dalits hailing from Ramanathapuram district, who were killed in Sunday's police firing, here on Monday even as scores of Dalits gathered at Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH).

The bodies were later sent to the victims' villages amid tight security. While Vellaichami (65) of Chatrakudi succumbed to bullet injuries in hospital, Theerpukani (27) of Melakodumanur and Muthukumar of Kaattuparamakudi were brought dead to GRH.

Balakrishnan (19) and Jayaprakash (19), who suffered bullet injuries in the police firing at Chinthamani in Madurai were shifted to a private hospital after their relatives complained that the treatment was unsatisfactory.

Eleven persons who were injured in police lathi charge at Paramakudi and 13 others who sustained injuries during police action at Chinthamani were also treated at the GRH.

Members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), led by former MLA N. Nanmaran, and members of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front visited the hospital.

P. Sampath, president, TNUEF, said that the injured were not being treated properly. “One of the injured, Chaturagiri (22), told us that the bullet which had pierced his left leg was yet to be removed.”

Both CPI (M) and TNUEF condemned the police firing saying it could have been avoided. “It was not at all wise on the part of the police to arrest Dalit leader John Pandian on the guru puja day, when so many Dalits had gathered at a single spot,” said Mr. Sampath.

“Police showed restraint”

S. George, Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, visited two private hospitals in the city and met three police personnel injured in the rioting. He said that the situation was under control in Paramakudi and adequate police personnel have been deployed.

Asked what actually happened in Paramakudi, he said that the police had shown much restraint while facing the violent mob. “The situation went out of control and we had to open fire.”

As many as 99 persons have been arrested in connection with Sunday's violence at Chinthamani.