He has made a career out of fanning the caste cauldron, tearing into Dalits with unfailing regularity. So the irony was not lost on anyone last week when Vanniyar strongman Dr S Ramadoss landed in a Tiruchy prison and chose to read Gandhian Thought to while his time and keep anxious partymen at bay.
It could well be that the senior leader was realising the futility of pursuing divisive politics at a time his party, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), was facing flak from all quarters. Barely had his supporters had time to register the fact that their leader had been incarcerated that the Tamil Nadu police arrested his son and former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss for violating conditions laid down for the conduct of the party’s youth conference near Chennai last year.
Anbumani’s father and several top leaders were arrested on Tuesday when they attempted to stage a protest demanding a judicial inquiry into caste violence that occurred between Dalits and the Vanniyars on April 25 at Marakkanam near Puducherry.
Blaming the VCK for the violence at Marakkanam, Anbumani demanded an independent judicial probe to establish the truth.
Condemning his father’s arrest, he questioned the necessity of keeping Ramadoss, who is in his seventies, in a marriage hall for 11 hours and then remanding him rather than doing it immediately after detention.
Anbumani claimed that the blame put on the PMK for the attack on Dalits was baseless. The entire violence, including torching of Dalit households, was orchestrated by the VCK and its leader Thol Thirumavalavan, he said.
The party cadre, meanwhile, reacted predictably. After Ramadoss senior’s arrest, they went on a rampage, torching government buses and state-run liquor shops. Stoning of buses, cutting trees and damaging public property, especially in the northern and western belts where the party has a presence, were also reported.
The reaction of PMK men seemed to have turned the clock back by three decades. The party men cut down several trees along major roads protesting the arrest of their leader. During the reservation agitations in the late 1980s, Ramadoss’s followers felled hundreds of trees along major roads.
In Thedavur village on Perambalur Highway, revenue officials spotted a large Vagai tree cut and laid across the road in a bid to block traffic early Wednesday. At Panaimadal village on Yethapuri-Thumbal Road, a large Pungamia tree and some Palmyrah trees were cut to block the road. Attur revenue officials cleared the road around midnight.
On Aatayampatti-Kakapalayam Road, a few tamarind trees were uprooted while at Iruppali, Palmyrah trees were found hacked. Around 2,000 people were arrested for vandalism.
Meanwhile, Tiruchy Central Prison sources said since Ramadoss Senior was a diabetic, a team of doctors was monitoring him.
Nearly 3,000 PMK workers, who had apparently joined Ramadoss’ protest on assurances that they would be released the same day in the event of an arrest, were repeatedly asking Ramadoss ‘Eppo veliyae povome ayyah’ (when will we go out), whenever they had an opportunity to see him.
According to sources, Ramadoss, lodged in a separate cell appeared irritated and dejected, and avoided talking to the workers. The leader spent his time reading Gandhian Thought which speaks in support of inter-caste marriages and non-violent struggles, among other things.