VILLUPURAM: An argument over bursting of crackers during a temple festival escalated into a clash between caste Hindus and Dalits in a village near Vikrawandi, police said. Two persons, a Dalit man and a cop suffered minor injuries during the clash. There were also allegations that sugarcane farms of some caste Hindus were set on fire. Police arrested 17 members from both groups and tightened security in the village. According to police, a car procession of the Mariamman temple in Colony area of Pombur village near Vikrawandi was held on Monday night.
While the procession was underway, some youth from the Colony, allegedly in an inebriated condition, burst crackers near the bus stop of the village. When a few caste Hindus objected to busting of crackers, a quarrel broke out between the two groups. As argument escalated into violence, with both groups pelting stones on each other, policemen from Mailam police station, posted for security, rushed to pacify them.
There was further chaos when a burning torch thrown by someone hit Special Sub-Inspector Syed Mohamed Ali, who sustained minor injuries on his back. As Villupuram district SP S Jeyakumar was out of station, additional police force under Cuddalore district Superintendent of Police M Sree Abhinav rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control. After inquiries, police filed cases against seven caste Hindus and 10 Dalits in connection with the clash. V Nagappan (55) from the Colony, who suffered minor injuries in the clash and the injured SSI received treatment at the government medical college hospital in Mundiampakkam.
Meanwhile, revenue department officials under Villupuram Revenue Divisional Officer Rajendran and Vanur Tahsildar Thangamani held inquiries in the village. Though they initially suggested keeping the temple closed till the issue is resolved, they decided against such a move after villagers promised to not indulge in further clashes. Officials also held talks with both sides and pacified them, informed an official source from Vanur taluk office. Police protection was provided under DySP V Thirumal, Villupuram sub-division and K Neethiraj of Gingee sub-division. Villupuram range DIG Santosh Kumar also inspected the village and inquired about the incident.
A caste Hindu villager, on condition of anonymity said: “Usually, the temple car is not taken till the bus stop, and only this year did they come that far. Some drunk youth from the Colony sparked the clash by bursting crackers and dancing in an indecent manner.”
But a Dalit villager denied the allegations. “On the second day of the festival, as crackers were burst, a drunk mechanic from the caste Hindu community drove right very close to the crackers. As he was in an inebriated condition, we took away his two-wheeler and the next day, we returned it after he apologised. However, when the caste Hindus heard about it, they created a issue.” The Colony residents also added that no one from their side set fire to sugarcane farms.
Sugarcane farms set ablaze
A few persons allegedly also set fire to sugarcane farms of R Ramesh, N Sudhakar and his brother N Raja, all caste Hindus. The fire was put out by personnel from the Vanitha fire and rescue service station, police said. Revenue department officials under Villupuram Revenue Divisional Officer Rajendran and Vanur Tahsildar Thangamani held inquiries in the village.