Paramakudi firing: Clean chit to police

Published : Nov 13, 2013 12:30 IST

September 11, 2011: Police clashing with Dalits at Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district.

September 11, 2011: Police clashing with Dalits at Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district.

THE Justice Sampath Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Tamil Nadu government to inquire into the police firing at Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram district on September 11, 2011, in which six Dalits were killed and several others injured, has virtually given the police a clean chit. Dalits had gathered in large numbers at Paramakudi to pay homage to their icon and freedom fighter, Immanuel Sekaran, on his 54th death anniversary. Sekaran was murdered by some caste Hindus on September 11, 1957.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government ordered the judicial probe by Justice K. Sampath, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, on September 13, 2011. The commission submitted its report to the government on May 7, 2013. The report, in two volumes, tabled in the State Assembly only on October 30, claimed that the police action was “absolutely warranted to maintain peace and restore normalcy”. Listing out the factors and circumstances that “gave rise to the opening of fire and subsequent law and order disturbances”, the report said the detention of Tamizhaga Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam leader John Pandian, who was scheduled to visit Paramakudi to pay homage at the memorial of Sekaran, had sparked protests by Dalits.

Following intelligence reports that Pandian also had plans to visit Pacheri, a Dalit hamlet near Paramakudi, where a Dalit boy, Palanikumar, had been brutally murdered by caste Hindus two days before Sekaran’s death anniversary, the police wanted to “play it safe” in order to ensure law and order, according to the report. The commission also said that Pandian’s supporters staged a “road-roko” in the town, preventing followers of Puthiya Tamizhagam leader K. Krishnasamy from proceeding to Sekaran’s memorial.

Dubbing the view that the law enforcers had a bias against Dalits a “myth”, the commission said, “It was the Dalits already fuming over the murder of Palanikumar who had triggered off the violence despite repeated persuasion by police…. If the firing had not been resorted to, the consequences would have been disastrous…. It was more a case of self-defence by the police.” Had the police not resorted to firing to quell the “savage mob”, the violence would have “fanned the flames of caste clashes not only in that area but in other southern districts as well”.

Although the probe panel absolved the police of any excesses, it said the conduct of some of them after the riots were quelled was “disgraceful and at variance with the prescription of the Police Standing Orders, as could be seen from the fact that several rioters were beaten up after they were rounded up”. The commission called for “more intensive investigation” into the death of one of the victims, Theerpukani. It also recommended a further inquiry into the “undue delay” in sending S. Vellaichamy, another victim, to a hospital in Madurai, that too without an attendant.

Interestingly, the State government, which has accepted most of the commission’s findings, has rejected the “disparaging remarks made about the police in the aftermath of the riots”. It has also decided against accepting the panel’s recommendations relating to prohibition and freebies.

The timing of the tabling the report has also disturbed human rights organisations and Dalit groups. The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front has dubbed the report an “attempt to protect the erring police personnel”. A statement issued by its president, P. Sampath, and general secretary, K. Samuel Raj, said the affected people and human rights organisations had moved the Madras High Court, seeking a probe by the CBI. The State government hastily ordered the judicial probe even as a CBI investigation was under way. The government was criticised for tabling the report in the Assembly after much delay. The general secretary of Thyagi Immanuel Peravai, P. Chandrabose, said Dalit organisations were not surprised at the outcome of the probe. Various judicial inquiries ordered by successive State governments in the past, including the ones relating to the Keezhvenmani massacre of 1968, the Kodiyankulam rampage of 1995 and the Thamiraparani tragedy of 1999, had absolved the police and other government personnel of guilt, he added.

Dalit organisations have staged protests in different parts of the State objecting to the findings of the Sampath Commission.

S. Dorairaj

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