Chennai comes to a standstill

Effigies of political rivals were burnt in many places -- Photo: M. Srinath   | Photo Credit: M_SRINATH

This was the day the city had been waiting for with bated breath. When it finally came, Chennai was left bruised, battered and licking the wounds caused by nearly half a day of violence and picketing.

It was the worst of times for the city. With rank speculation and rumours, fuelled in good measure by social media, spreading like wildfire, conflicting emotions played out during the early part of the day.

First there was the ‘not guilty’ phase, when AIADMK party men distributed sweets, and burst crackers a month ahead of Deepavali, and the DMK party cadre sulked.

Then, with rumours of conviction, the camp that was joyful hitherto sunk into gloom and the other party celebrated. With the confirmed news coming from the Bangalore court, depression turned to desperation and anger.

Eyewitness accounts said angry AIADMK party men began pelting stones at a few places in the city, particularly in Gopalapuram (DMK leader M. Karunanidhi’s house), Teynampet (DMK party office), Santhome (Subramanian Swamy’s residence) and Royapettah (near AIADMK party office).

A rash of attacks happened after the sentence was pronounced too, with the crew of one TV channel bearing the brunt.

It was after 1 p.m. that everything went steadily downhill: traffic was disrupted, buses stopped plying, roads were blocked, shops began shutting down, effigies were burnt and minor clashes erupted at several places in the city.

By evening, the city wore a deserted look, its residents afraid to venture out, fearing violence, and shopkeepers downed shutters, either voluntarily or under duress.

AIADMK cadre burnt effigies and also protested in suburbs such as Tambaram, Pallavaram and Chromepet. There were, however, a few isolated incidents of AIADMK party cadre urging hawkers on NSC Bose Road and Pondy Bazaar not to fear anything and keep their shops open.

However, there were also areas like the Ritchie Street market off Anna Salai, where AIADMK men bearing party flags forced shopkeepers to bring their shutters down.

Bus services within the city, and those to other districts and States were grossly affected. Even autorickshaws refused to ply, short or long distances, putting many a resident in a fix, and disrupting normal life in the city.

Suburban trains were packed from about 3.30 p.m. as trains were the only public transportation available at a certain point of time.

A few private offices in the city shut down by 2.30 p.m. and NASSCOM informally asked BPOs to ensure their employees stayed on campus. Some groups asked small hospitals in Thiruvanmiyur and Neelankarai to close down; duty doctors were forced to stay on 24-hour duty as those on night shift found it difficult to reach the hospital.

Residents went to sleep hoping to wake up to normalcy. Certainly, the city that woke up on Saturday morning was not quite the same when it went to sleep that night.

(With additional reporting by Sunitha Sekar, Petlee Peter, T. Madhavan, Kavita Kishore and Vivek Narayanan)

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 3:39:47 PM |

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