MADURAI: A 46-year-old Dalit man, whose long-running feud with the members of upper castes earned him a spate of cases including murder attempts, was chased and gunned down by police personnel inside church premises in Ramanathapuram on Thursday night.
The Ramanathapuram police claimed they were trying to detain D Govindan, suspecting his involvement in a robbery case, when he allegedly attacked them with a sickle. But the relatives charged the policemen of spinning tales after shooting down the man at a close range.
Govindan, a resident of T Pudukudi Colony in Ramanathapuram, is an accused in many cases including the murder of an upper caste man who in turn was one of the accused in the murder of Govindan's brother. However, Govindan was subsequently acquitted in this case.
According to residents of Arumbur where the shootout happened, Govindan was travelling in his car driven by Chinnarasu, chased by sub-inspector Thangamuniyasamy and head constable Soundarapandiyan. To escape police, Govindan barged into the premises of a church here.
Govindan allegedly attacked the cops with sickle, following which sub-inspector Thangamuniyasamy fired two rounds from close range, hitting Govindan's chest, killing him on the spot.
The police officials in plainclothes, immediately wrapped Govindan's body in his own dhoti and took it to Ramanathapuram government hospital, where they got themselves admitted as well.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a youth from the neighbourhood told Express that a woman living nearby the church came out of her house after hearing the commotion. She asked the officials to reveal their identity and that of the victim, and asked them to wait till village elders arrived at the spot. But the officials managed to flee the spot with the body before the villagers arrived.
Govindan, who is survived by wife, Bavani, and three daughters, has been into charcoal business in the recent years. He was one of the leaders of the Dalit community in the area.
The incident has spread tension in the region on Friday on account of the birth anniversary celebrations of BR Ambedkar, prompting the police brass to beef up security at Govindan's native, T Pudukudi colony, Thondi near where the incident happened, and the general hospital, where his body has been kept for post-mortem examination.
"On Thursday, Govindan went to take the Ambassador car that he had purchased. In the evening, he spoke to his wife over phone to inform that he would buy pooja items to celebrate Tamil New year on Friday. That was the last the family heard from him, before news channels reported the encounter," said a relative.
Repeated attempts to reach senior police officers for the official version failed. Lower level sources told Express that the two personnel involved in the encounter were part of a special team formed to solve a robbery case in Kenikarai police limit, in which a businessmen allegedly lost Rs 9 lakh.
This is the second police encounter incident in Thiruvadanai Police sub-division in the last two years.