Communal clashes in Shencottai over Vinayaka Chathurthi procession

Police personnel at the procession held at Shencottai in Tirunelveli on Friday.   | Photo Credit: A. Shaikmohideen

Prohibitory orders were imposed in Shencottai and Tenkasi taluks in Tirunelveli district on Friday after a communal clash marred a Vinayaka Chathurthi procession on Thursday.

A clash broke out between a section of Hindus and Muslims in Shencottai, situated about 65 km west of Tirunelveli, when a Vinayaka idol was taken through a street where a large number of Muslims live.

Tirunelveli Collector Shilpa Prabhakar Satish issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Shencottai and adjoining Tenkasi taluks until Saturday 6 a.m. She also ordered the closure of eight liquor shops in these two taluks and three more in nearby Kadayanallur taluk to restore order.

According to the police, a group took a Vinayaka idol in an auto, with an accompanying band, through Shencottai’s West Periya Pallivaasal Street around 9 p.m. on Thursday, to be installed in front of the Vandimarichamman Temple as part of Vinayaka Chathurthi celebrations. A section of Muslims, comprising mostly youth, opposed the move saying that the idol should be taken on an alternative route.

This led to arguments between members of both communities in the presence of the police. Soon it escalated into violence with stones and empty liquor bottles being hurled, leading to injuries to eight persons, including three police personnel. Subsequently miscreants damaged 10 cars and three autos, all parked along the street, and targeted two shops and an ATM.

Members of both communities complained that the fewer number of policemen deployed on Thursday on Periya Pallivaasal Street during the procession led to the clash. “A minimum of 10 policemen are deployed along Periya Pallivaasal Street every year when the statue is taken in a procession. The rallyists would cross this spot in a controlled manner on seeing the policemen. This year, only two women police constables had been stationed on the street. That led to the problem,” a resident claimed.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Tirunelveli Range, Kapil Kumar Saratkar, and Superintendent of Police P. Ve. Arunshakthikumar, who arrived at the spot around midnight with additional police forces, held talks with the Hindus and the Muslims until 2.30 a.m. As they failed to break the deadlock, it was decided to resume the talks in the presence of the Collector on Friday morning.

Collector Shilpa, who arrived at Shencottai in the early hours, held talks with the Muslims while Mr. Arunshakthikumar pacified the Hindus. The latter subsequently held a meeting in a marriage hall and informed the Collector that the procession should be allowed via the traditional route with police protection. In turn, the police asked the processionists not to raise “objectionable slogans” during the rally and not allow those in an inebriated state to take part.

When the rally was taken out on Friday afternoon via Periyasamy Street and Pump House Road, stone pelting near Slum Clearance Board Colony and a mosque gave rise to some anxious moments. Three persons including Senthilkumar, a reporter with a satellite television channel, sustained injuries. The police then chased away the miscreants and the procession resumed.

Police said immersion of 36 Vinayaka idols in the Gundar river was completed on Friday evening in the presence of over 600 policemen led by Inspector General of Police (South Zone) K.P. Shanmugarajeshwaran.

In view of the tense situation, the quarterly examinations scheduled for Friday were completed in the morning and all schools in Shencottai were closed after 2 p.m.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 6:52:31 AM |

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