There was an uproar at the district collectorate here that lasted for several hours on Monday when a group of Dalit villagers of Pokkattakudi near Lalgudi besieged the office and attempted to surrender their ration cards, condemning police action against them after a clash with dominant community residents in a church festival.
They alleged that the police were acting against the Dalits and arrested two persons including their village head after the clash. However, a peace initiative by the DRO with the agitated Dalits defused the situation after assurances of releasing the arrested villagers.
According to the Dalit residents who besieged the Collectorate around 11 am, there has been long enmity between the Dalits of Pokkattakudi in Sheshasamuthram and the adjacent Mutharayyar-dominant Periyavarsi village. It is said that the annual festival at Adaikalamatha Church in Periyavarsi was scheduled on Sunday after which a car procession was planned.
As there has been enmity between the two community people, the organisers of the church festival had asked the Dalits not to participate in the procession to avoid untoward incidents.
However, on Sunday, a group of Dalit youth tried to participate in the car procession when a quarrel erupted and snowballed into an assault.
Subsequently, the police officers rushed to the Dalit colony and inquired about the incident.
Later, a heated argument ensued between the police and a group of Dalit youth. It is said that the police officer who was inquiring lost his balance in the scuffle and fell down.
Soon, the police officer alerted his colleagues and, “In no time, around 15 policemen led by SSIs Selvaraj and Venkatesh arrived at the spot and resorted to lathicharge in which several of our people sustained injuries”, said N Mohan, who led the protest.
Meanwhile, police registered a case against seven Dalits and arrested two persons including their village head Ramesh.
“Since Sunday, we (Dalits) were keeping ourselves away from our village fearing arrest as they (police) have been acting in cahoots with the dominant community”, said Manivel (67) who suffered bruises in the lathicharge.
On Tuesday, the Dalit villagers assembled at the Collectorate and tried to surrender their ration cards.
On information, Tiruchy Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) Basheer rushed to the spot and held talks with the agitating villagers.
However, the villagers did not pay any attention to him alleging that the RDO talks would bring nothing fruitful to them.
Later, the District Revenue Officer, (DRO) K Tharpagaraj held talks with the agitating villagers. The Dalits demanded withdrawal of the case against them and the release of the two arrested Dalits.
The DRO pacified the protesting dalit residents and assured to fulfil their demands. Subsequently, they dispersed from the Collectorate.