Places of worship attacked; 38 arrested throughout State

DESECRATED: The damaged idol of the presiding deity of the Raghavendra Temple in Erode on Friday. PHOTO: M. GOVARTHAN  

Tamil Nadu Bureau

Idols, icons in temples in Villupuram, Erode damaged

Four Thanthai Periyar Dravidar activists arrested Devotees resort to road blocks

CHENNAI: Thirty-eight persons were arrested in connection with attacks on places of worship in the State on Friday.

Agitated people resorted to road blockade in Chennai, Villupuram and Erode and were pacified by the police. Security has been beefed up for places of worship and statues.

The police have arrested four activists of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Iyakkam V. Natarajan (29) and S. Nagapillai (20) of Nedumanur, A. Durai (24) of Vanapuram and S. Samithurai (25) of Kaduvanur in connection with the Sankarapuram incident.

They have been booked under Section 153 (a) (1) of Indian Penal Code (fanning communal tension by damaging religious symbols or religious places).

The granite Vinayaka idol of a temple at Sankarapuram in Villupuram was found removed and broken. Devotees found that the `Moonjuru' (mouse vahanam) and the pedestal of the idol had been destroyed. Cement decorative works that formed part of the temple compound were found broken. Images of the Hindu pantheon made of concrete and erected on the gopuram were damaged beyond recognition.

The granite Vinayaka idol of the Selva Vinayaka temple near Agriculture Market Committee on the Sankarapuram-Kallakurichi road was also found uprooted and broken into pieces. The idol was found near the bus stand, about 200 feet away.

A large number of devotees started gathering at both the places. They later resorted to road rokos.

Traffic on the Sankarapuram-Kallakurichi and Sankarapuram-Thiruvannamalai roads was thrown out of gear for a couple of hours.

In Erode, a Ramar idol was found damaged. The police said around 5.15 p.m., a group of Dravidar Kazhagam volunteers, shouting slogans, entered the Raghavendraswamy temple, situated in Agrahara Street, went to the sanctum sanctorum and removed the deity.

On hearing the news, hundreds of devotees rushed to the spot, and demanded the police take action against the persons responsible for the act. RSS and Hindu Munnani volunteers protested against the damage to the idol. Police pickets were deployed at the temple and at the nearby Shiva Vishnu temple. The police said they had posted 18 pickets near important temples in Erode.

In Chennai, some miscreants hurled a few bottles of acid and petrol at the Ayodhya Mandapam, West Mambalam.

When contacted, Director-General of Police D. Mukherjee told The Hindu that alert messages had been sent to the Superintendents of Police to protect statues at prominent places. They had also been instructed to be on the lookout for any backlash.

The police warned that apart from stringent action against anti-social elements indulging in violence, steps would be taken to detain them under the National Security Act.

In a press release, the police said subsequent to the damage caused to the Periyar Statue, some anti-social elements had indulged in violence causing damage to places of worship, attempting to burn photographs and assaulting some persons.

In this connection, 10 cases had been registered in various parts of the State. Thirty-eight miscreants had been arrested and remanded.

Dravidar Kazhagam president K. Veeramani on Friday appealed to people to exercise restraint in the wake of the vandalising of the statue of its founder and Tamil rationalist leader Periyar E.V. Ramasamy.

In a statement, he said nobody should take the law into their hands and cause embarrassment to the State Government. The police were seized of the matter.

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko condemned the incident and sought stringent action against the culprits. Bharatiya Janata Party State unit president L. Ganesan said no devotee would back the incident of damaging the statue. At the same time, the acts of violence against innocent persons in Salem and Mettur were equally condemnable.

It was the responsibility of the State Government to ensure security for people.

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy condemned the police for registering a first information report (FIR) against Swami Dayanand Saraswati in the case related to damage caused to the statue in Srirangam. In a statement here, Dr. Swamy said by registering an FIR against Dayanand Saraswati merely for issuing a statement against the installation of the statue, the police had violated several Supreme Court judgments, including the one in the Bhajan Lal case in 1992.