CHENNAI: Demanding "justice" for the 17-year-old Dalit medical aspirant, political parties, students' bodies and pro-Tamil outfits today hit the streets with many political heavyweights like T T V Dhinakaran making a beeline for the girl's native village to pay their tributes.
Anitha, daughter of a daily wage earner, allegedly hanged herself at her house in Ariyalur district of the state yesterday. She was reportedly upset after it became known that Tamil Nadu will not be exempted from the ambit of National Entrance-cum-Eligibility Test (NEET).
She had moved the Supreme Court against NEET-based medical examinations in the southern state.
Road and rail blockades and attempts to picket government offices were organised by protesters, even as the BJP and the ruling AIADMK came under severe criticism.
Some students tried to stage a protest on Greenways Road near Chief Minister K Palaniswami's house here but were detained by police.
Some activists also raised slogans against lawyer Nalini, wife of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who had represented pro-NEET students in the court.
The CPI(M) and its student and youth affiliates, SFI and DYFI, staged a road blockade here over the suicide of the girl. The party's state unit secretary G Ramakrishnan and many others were detained, police said.
At Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli district, a "wailing protest" was held by women members of pro-Tamil 'Naam Tamizhar Katchi'. Protests were also held at Coimbatore, Salem and Rameswaram by students' and youth outfits who demanded justice for the girl and sought immediate withdrawal of NEET.
Similarly, VCK party workers were held when they staged a road blockade at Kilpauk here.
Hundreds of students and workers of various political parties and organisations were arrested at Coimbatore when they attempted to stage agitation on the issue.
A few students asked the Tamil Nadu government to take moral responsibility and step down from office and sought a judicial inquiry into the incident, police said.
A group of workers belonging to Viduthalai Chiruthigal Katchi (VCK) assembled near Gandhipuram bus stand, blocked the road and raised slogans against the government and sought an exemption for Tamil Nadu from NEET.
Some workers also attempted to burn an effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Coimbatore, but the police prevented them. Police arrested 11 persons in this connection.
Protests were also held in Salem, Madurai and Rameswaram by students' and youth outfits who demanded justice for the girl and sought immediate withdrawal of NEET.
Meanwhile, Anitha's mortal remains were kept at her native village in Ariyalur for the public to pay tributes. Among others, Dhinakaran, VCK founder Thol Thirumavalavan, DK leader K Veeramani and a host of social activists, cinema personalities and others paid tributes.
Some locals also raised slogans against Dhinakaran when he arrived at the girl's native village. Some of them claimed they opposed his visit as "he is part of the (ruling) AIADMK."
Dhinakaran later said that despite scoring "high marks" of 1176 out of 1200, Anitha could not get a medical seat.
"In the interest of the people of Tamil Nadu, Central government should cancel NEET," he said.
Traders had also shut down shops in Ariyalur.
At the receiving end for the teen's suicide, the BJP said NEET was a "pan-India issue" and that its admissions were based on the merit lits following a Supreme Court verdict.
NEET is being held in Tamil Nadu following the apex court order, BJP state President Tamilisai Sounderrajan said even as she regretted the death of Anitha.
She claimed rural students have benefited more from NEET and that they have been highlighting the three attempts in the exam.
"Let this not be highlighted as brutal politics. State BJP wants no more Anithas," she said.
Union Minister of State, Pon Radhakrishnan said Anitha's death has caused "unbearable pain."
Condoling her death, he also expressed sympathies with her family.
He further exhorted children to face their future with mental grit and urged politicians, activists and others to make encouraging remarks for children.
Senior AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai said his party was not in favour of NEET and expressed regret over Anitha committing suicide.
"She could have avoided taking the step," he said.
The apex court had last month asked the state government to start counselling for admissions to MBBS and BDS seats in the state based on NEET merit list.
It had given the directive after Centre told the court that it was not in favour of a recent ordinance passed by the state to exempt it from NEET this year.
Political leaders including DMK working president M K Stalin and VCK founder Thol Thirumavalavan and actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, among others, had condoled Anitha's death.
Political parties and other outfits in Tamil Nadu are opposed to NEET, saying it will affect rural students.
Early this year, the state assembly had unanimously adopted two resolutions to ensure for the continuation of medical admissions in the state based on Class XII marks and not through an entrance exam, as envisaged by NEET.