Chennai: A group of vanniyar people, a dominant caste group in Tamil Nadu, allegedly attacked dalit homes in Ponparappi village in Ariyalur on the poll day, Thursday. The attackers were reportedly workers of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), an ally of All India Anna Dravida Minnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
According to reports, what started as a small argument, spiralled into caste violence within hours, in which 20 dalit homes were ransacked and eight people were injured.
Police were deployed and cases have been registered against both groups involved in the clashes.
The incident reportedly started when some PMK workers broke a pot, which is the election symbol of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), a dalit party. The VCK members reportedly questioned the people who broke the pot. After that, PMK workers mobilised and allegedly attacked dalit homes in the area, thrashing roofs and ransacking the homes. Video footage of the attack shows several people verbally abusing and threatening while attacking the houses with sticks and stones.
Ariyalur is situated in the Chidambaram Lok Sabha constituency, which is reserved for Scheduled Castes. Both vanniyar and dalit communities have about equal share in the population. And majority of both groups fall under the lower economic background.
PMK, led by the Anbumani Ramadoss, has a strong base of vanniyar votes. The infamous Dharmapuri violence in 2012, where over 200 dalit homes were torched, was allegedly orchestrated by PMK. Though Ramadoss denied the allegations, many believe that his speeches condemning dalit-vanniyar marriages was what triggered the conflict between the two communities.
“We cannot blame the entire vanniyar community about the new incident in Ariyalur,” said Ramesh Babu, a CPI(M) leader from Villupuram. “It is people from PMK and we need to focus on that point. The history of conflicts between the two sections has always been here. Many parties, including CPI(M), are working very hard to maintain a peaceful atmosphere here,” he added.
Interestingly, PMK’s declared philosophy is ‘upholding social democracy’, inspired from the works of Karl Marx, B. R. Ambedkar and Thanthai Periyar. The party earlier allied with VCK and then separated.
During the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, PMK had vehemently attacked VCK and its leader and candidate in Chidambaram constituency, Thol Thirumavalavan, alleging that he was anti-backward class. They compaigned that if Thirumavalavan won, it could further strengthen dalit assertion, which could ruin ‘harmony’ in the villages.