VELLORE: Tension gripped Melvisharam for over seven hours after members of Muslim community staged a road blockade, refusing the funeral procession of a 90-year-old Dalit woman to pass through a public street to a burial ground on Palar bank, here on Wednesday.
Frayed nerves were soothed after a four-hour-long hectic negotiation by the police and revenue officials. A heavy cordon of security personnel escorted the procession to the burial ground by 7.30 pm.
Sources said that the road blockade was a fallout of an alleged act of vandalism, wherein a group of youth from Thanjavuran Colony allegedly pelted stones at a mosque in Melvisharam after a clash over a bike accident.
The incident took place around 12.30 pm at Kathivadi Joint Junction in Melvisharam, 100 metres from the spot where the mosque stands. According to police, Jahangir (27) and Ismayil (24), residents of Melvisharam, were riding a bike when it collided with another two-wheeler reportedly ridden by one Vijayan, husband of former ward councillor of Melvisharam Municipality. An altercation broke out between the three persons, ending with the Muslim youth reportedly beating up Vijayam.
Meanwhile, an hour later, about 30 people led by Vijayan reached the junction, searching for his assailants. Even as the tension was mounting, Jahangir and Ismayil, backed by their supporters, reached the spot and began pelting stones at each other. While the clash was raging, a brick-laden van came to a stop at the junction. The miscreants on both sides allegedly ransacked the van, stole bricks and began pelting them on each other.
After a while, the Muslim youth ran towards the mosque and took shelter in it. Their pursuers reached the premises and continued hurling bricks on the structure, damaging a wall in the process. When other members of the community reached the mosque to offer afternoon prayers, they found the place of worship vandalised, with bricks on the floor. Opposing the act, around 300 worshippers staged a road-roko on Arcot-Vellore Road, demanding action against the miscreants.
Meanwhile, Vellore Deputy Inspector General of Police R Tamil Chandran and Superintendent of Police P Pakalavan rushed the spot and pacified the agitators. The officials assured action against the miscreants and later arrested four persons.
Meanwhile, the residents of Thanjavura Colony decided to take the body of a 90-year-old woman, who had died the previous day, through Arcot-Vellore Road to a burial ground on Palar bank around 3.30 pm. The relatives of the deceased, Boopathi, were on the road with the hearse when some members of Muslim community blocked their way, refusing passage.
The police rushed to the spot and started negotiations to cool the flaring tempers. After four hours of talks, the Muslims community members relented. The body was escorted to the burial ground in the presence of revenue officials and police.
Police had cordoned off all roads leading to Palar river. However, during the funeral procession, scuffles broke out between the police and some Muslims youth at Kathivadi Junction and Vellore-Arcot Road. Superintendent of Police P Pakalavan told Express that the issue would be sorted out before long. Cases were registered against people from both the sides.