CHENNAI: The Pattali Makkal Katchi, an ally of the ruling AIADMK held protests here on Tuesday, staging sit-in at multiple locations leading to traffic snarls and and blocking train, demanding 20 per cent exclusive quota for Vanniyars, a Most Backward Community, in jobs and education.
Pressing the demand, a delegation of PMK office- bearers led by party leader Anbumani Ramadoss called on Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Paneerselvam at the Secretariat and gave a memorandum seeking reservation.
Later, Palaniswami said a commission would be set up to exclusively collect current caste-wise data and submit a report to the government.
Quantifiable data on castes is necessary considering a case on 69 per cent quota in the Supreme Court, the need to ensure that welfare schemes reached the intended beneficiaries and also in view of a long time demand in the state for a caste wise headcount, he said.
"Complete information (on castes and their population) can be obtained only by collecting caste-wise data across Tamil Nadu," the Chief Minister said announcing the commission.
The Vanniyars, also known as Vanniya Kula Kshatriyas are among the 35 plus castes that fall under the Most Backward Classes in Tamil Nadu and they, together with the Denotified Communities, are provided 20 per cent reservation out of the total 69 per cent quota.
Speaking to reporters, Anbumani said their demand involved social justice and the protest was not against anyone.
"This should be seen as a matter related to Tamil Nadu's growth as Vanniyars constituted one-fourth of the state's population," he said and outlined the extreme backwardness of the community in areas including education and employment opportunities.
"This is a most backward community and people are working as construction labourers, road workers and so on.
Only if this community developed, could Tamil Nadu grow and this is very much a development issue and we have apprised the Chief Minister about this aspect and he has assured to take a good decision," he said.
Earlier, protesters in large numbers entered the city after removing barricades and they were prevented at many entry points by police, leading to severe traffic congestion on the arterial Grand Southern Trunk Road that links southern suburbs and districts to the metropolis.
The protesters arrived in cars, vans and buses from several places away from the city.
Although the party had announced it would hold a "massive protest demonstration," in front of the TN Public Service Commission office in the city, protests spilled over to other locations as well and 'protesters' pelted stones on the Chennai-bound Ananthapuri Express at suburban Vandalur.
Since protesters did not move away from the tracks, the loco pilot had to halt the train and briefly, stones rained on the engine.
In locations including Tambaram, they attempted to stage rail blockades and they were dispersed by police.
At Wallajahpet in Ranipet district, they staged a sit-in on the highway.
Asked about pelting of stones on the train, Anbumani asked the media to not attempt to give a colour of "violence" to the protest.
"We are against violence. No one should indulge in violence," he said adding "someone has done this (pelted stones on train).
Don't blame us for the incident." Police, all of a sudden detained their members for hours and they were put to lot of inconvenience, Anbumani, a former Union Health Minister said.
Northern Tamil Nadu, including Vellore, Ranipet, Cuddalore, Kancheepuram, Chengelpet, Tiruvallur and Villupuram districts is considered the heartland of the Vanniyars.
In October, the PMK accused the government of not paying heed to people's grievances, and said it would hold an unprecedented, massive protest in 2021 demanding 20 per cent reservation for Vanniyars.
The party has already announced that Monday's protest was only the 'first phase' and subsequently agitations would be taken forward by organising huge demonstrations at the level of villages, panchayat unions and districts followed by a massive 'final' stage of protest.