Communal Trouble Erupts In Tamil Nadu
CHENAI: Though notorious for frequent caste clashes, Tamil Nadu has by and large been free from communal strife. Of late, communalism has started raising its ugly head. The last communal clash pertained to the bomb blasts during the 1989 Lok Sabha election campaign in which the then BJP president L.K. Adavani participated.
Rioting on a large scale erupted ten days ago in Comibatore and Tirupur cities, following the mysterious murder of the spokesman of the Hindu Munnani (Hindu Front), G. Sasikumar, while he was riding his two-wheeler at night. Though there were no casualties, mass destruction of public property was witnessed during the riots. The murderous attack was allegedly done by a still unidentified gang. Sasikumar, who was in the “hit list’ of the Kerala-based party headed by Madani, the main accused in the 1989 Coimbatore blasts case but set free by court, had been receiving phone calls threatening to eliminate him, it is alleged.
According to Hindu Munnani leaders, the attack was by extremists of the Muslim community who were “envious of the unity of Hindus” in celebrating Vinayaka Chaturthi in the first week of September.
Leaders of several Hindu outfits are critical of the police for not arresting the perpetrators of this brutal murder. Though the police have arrested hundreds of rioters based on the CCTV footage available, they are still unable to zero in on the culprits. This has enraged further the supporters of Hindu Munnani who allege “official indifference” to such attacks on Hindus. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi has also criticised the” police inaction”. The investigation has since been handed over to the State CB-CID.
As a sequel to the murder of Sasikumar, a couple of days after the murder, a petrol bomb was hurled at the Bharatiya Janata Party office in Dindigul by a gang of extremists, damaging its shutters. The gang is also alleged to have assaulted the local Munnani leader Shankar Ganesh, besides setting afire the car of another leader B.G. Bose. The BJP which organised a day’s bandh on these incidents condemning the attacks accused the police of “indifference when it comes to attacks on Hindu leaders”.
According to State secretary of the Hindu Munnani J.S. Kishore Kumar the attackers of Sasikumar used deadly weapons to slit the back of his neck, apart from tearing his mouth and injuring hands. “The extremists were angry over the recent arrest of an Islamic State sympathiser who is living in Tirupur,” he said and alleged that people targeting Hindu community leaders “are getting support from Pakistan and Bangladesh”. Such systematic attack on Hindu leaders and BJP functionaries needed to be investigated thoroughly, he said and accused the intelligence wing of the police of failure to anticipate such incidents post-Vinayaka Chaturthi.
The Hindu Munnani, which held its State general body meeting at Tirupur on September 25, gave a call for installing mobile phone jammers in Tamil Nadu prisons, as it felt that most of the attacks on Hindu leaders like Sasikumar were masterminded inside prisons. State organiser of the Munnani K. Bhaktan told reporters after the meeting: “It is a known fact that mobile phones are smuggled and used in several prisons where terrorists are lodged. To prevent such an abuse, the Tamil Nadu prison authorities should follow the example of Puducherry Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi who has installed such jammers in the Union Territory’s prisons, replicating what she did during her tenure as New Delhi’s Tihar prison chief. He felt that this would go a long way in preventing extremist violence. While regretting the large-scale violence post the death of Sasikumar, the Munnani leader wondered why the police were targeting only the rioters without apprehending the murder culprits.
Union Minister for Shipping Pon. Radhakrishnan, who visited the BJP office in Dindigul, appealed to the Government and the police not to treat these as stray local incidents, since “there has been a sharp increase in attacks on leaders of the BJP and other Hindu orgainsations. He said that since 1989 leaders of the BJP and other Hindu organissatons had been victims of terrorist attacks, citing the killing of Nagaraj of Chinnalapatti and Selvaraj and Manickam of Dindigul. Had the police taken stern action earlier, such incidents could have been prevented. Stating that these attacks “are a challenge to national security since they are indulged in by terrorists”, he said that the State Government should realise that these issues were not between two religious communities, but between the State and terrorist groups.
Impartial observers in Tamil Nadu feel that incidents like Sasikumar’s murder and attack on Dindigul BJP office are the wake-up calls to the police intelligence wing to keep guard on extremist elements and sympathisers of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) whose number is increasing in the State, lest the otherwise peaceful co-existence of Hindus and Muslims in the State would be disturbed causing more misery.
Meanwhile, Yamuna, the widow of Sasikumar, attempted suicide by consuming poison on Wednesday. She was rushed to a private hospital in Coimbatore, where her condition is stated to be stable.
(The Author is a senior journalist and Prime Associate from Chennai)