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Periyar statue damaged at Srirangam, tension in town

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VANDALISED: The damaged statue of Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, in front of the Rajagopuram of the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tiruchi. Photo: M. Moorthy
VANDALISED: The damaged statue of Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, in front of the Rajagopuram of the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tiruchi. Photo: M. Moorthy

Tamil Nadu Bureau

5 Hindu Makkal Katchi activists arrested; windscreens of buses damaged

TIRUCHI: A statue of Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, being installed at Srirangam, was damaged, allegedly by activists of the Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK), early on Thursday.

The police arrested five HMK office-bearers. Their names were given as Manickam (41), district vice-president, Coimbatore; Rajasekaran (28), youth wing secretary, Coimbatore; Senthil Kumar (33), district general secretary, Coimbatore; Sujith (37), Madukkarai union secretary; and Raghavan, State deputy general secretary. They were later remanded to custody.

The life-size concrete statue is being installed by the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK). Its installation, right in front of the Rajagopuram of Ranganathaswamy Temple, had triggered a controversy with some Hindu organisations objecting.

The statue is being erected atop a 12-foot high pedestal under construction. DK leader K. Veeramani had recently announced that it would be unveiled on December 9. It was later deferred to December 16.

Unveiling as scheduled

Mr. Veeramani said on Thursday that the statue would be unveiled on December 16. The function would be organised as a festival of the congregation of Tamils.

Tension prevailed in Srirangam as windscreens of a couple of private town buses were damaged in stone-throwing incidents near Mambazhasalai and Devi theatre. Agitated DK cadres attempted to stage a road blockade, but were dispersed by the police. Police reinforcements were rushed to the town. Normal life remained unaffected.

Four policemen, deployed for providing security to the statue, have been suspended. The miscreants sneaked in when they had reportedly gone for refreshments at a nearby shop around 4.45 a.m. Armed with hammers, they climbed atop the pedestal and damaged the statue's head.

Police personnel and a few DK members rushed to the spot on hearing the noise and nabbed the accused.

Conflicting versions

There were conflicting versions on the extent of the damage. While some claimed that the head had been knocked off, the police said the damage was to the neck portion. The police have kept the statue covered with sacks. Some DK office-bearers said the statue could not be repaired and would be replaced with a bronze one as originally planned.

Karunanidhi warning

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said the Government would not allow desecration of statues of leaders. Responding to the issue raised by Congress Member C. Gnanasekaran regarding protests by some outfits against installing the statue, he said appropriate action would be taken against those responsible.

He cautioned against attempts to blow the issue out of proportion. Statues of leaders symbolised their service for creating social awareness, besides enabling others to draw inspiration to follow the path laid down by them. Though ideas propounded by any leader could be countered by ideas, "we will never tolerate acts such as damaging or desecrating statues of leaders." Whoever was behind it did not deserve pardon.

Parties flay act

Several parties condemned the desecration of the statue. D. Pandian, secretary of the State unit of the Communist Party of India (CPI), said the act was committed by retrograde elements and communal forces to cause social disharmony and create law and order problem.

He sought strong action against those responsible. Demonstrations would be organised all over the State.

Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S. Ramadoss said the act was against the self-respect of Tamils.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary N. Varadarajan said there was a tradition of installing statues of political leaders and prominent personalities in public life. Irrespective of differences of opinion, such an incident of damaging the statue should not be allowed in a democratic country.

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