Communal clashes broke out between a group of Hindus and Muslims during a Vinayaka Chaturthi procession at Sengottai in Tirunelveli district on Thursday.
According to the district administration, the fight broke out on Thursday evening over the route taken by the Hindu group for the installation of a Vinayaka statue in the area. A section of Muslims had allegedly objected to the route chosen.
Visuals from the scene showed police officers attempting to control the situation even as men pelted stones, pushed and shoved each other in the crowd. A car, a bike and an ATM in the area were damaged in the ensuing melee.
Following the clashes, the district administration slapped Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC)- Power to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger- in Sengottai and Tenkasi. All TASMAC shops in both the taluks have been shut indefinitely.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Tirunelveli District Collector Shilpa Prabhakar Satish said, “Police bandobast has been arranged. Statues are being taken for immersion. Thirty statues will be taken in the traditional route. We have spoken to both sides. They have assured cooperation. It’s usually a peaceful place. Section 144 is a precautionary measure against assembling in a manner that hurts religious sentiments or taking out a procession that hurts sentiments. People should not assemble to instigate or create problems.”
However, the Collector added that Section 144 would be imposed as and when necessary in the coming days, since several processions are set to take place.
The Collector also visited the area where the violence had taken place in order to assuage the fears of the people whose shops and bikes had been pelted with stones.
In March this year, similar tensions had gripped Tenkasi district as the Rama Rajya Rath Yatra made its way into the state from Kerala. Dravidian groups in the state had objected to the 'saffronisation' of Tamil Nadu. Then too, the district administration slapped Section 144 to prevent the assembly of crowds.
VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan, MMK leader Jawahirullah, and 10 others were detained by the police before their vehicles could enter Sengottai.