Agitators block Salem-Bengaluru highway; two youths attempt self-immolation
Tension prevailed in Vellalapatti village near Karuppur, as miscreants damaged a statue of social reformer and principal architect of the Constitution, B.R. Ambedkar, in the early hours of Friday.
While two youths attempted to immolate themselves, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) cadre blocked traffic on the Salem–Bengaluru highway for about an hour, condemning the incident.
The police sources said the local residents, on noticing the damaged hands of the statue on Santhai Maidan, gathered at the spot in large numbers and staged a dharna demanding the arrest of the culprits and the immediate installation of a new statue. The protesters were later joined by VCK and Puthiya Tamilagam cadre.
The agitators raised slogans demanding the immediate arrest of the culprits, prevention of the recurrence of such incidents and adequate protection for Ambedkar statues.
A section of people squatted on the Vattakkadu – Karuppur Road in protest.
Although the Karuppur police and Revenue officials tried to placate them, the protesters refused to withdraw their agitation until a new statue was installed.
As tensions peaked, a couple of youths — Surendran and Maha — attempted self-immolation by dousing themselves with kerosene. However, timely intervention by a few others on the spot thwarted their attempt. The protesters then withdrew their road blockade and again sat on a dharna near the statue, which was also subsequently withdrawn.
Later, a section of VCK cadre, led by Khaja Mohideen, treasurer of the urban district unit of the party, blocked traffic on the Salem– Bengaluru National Highway, condemning what they described as “delaying tactics” by the police and the official machinery in arresting the culprits and installing a new statue.
The police forcibly removed them, paving the way for the resumption of traffic movement.
Two picked up
Following an assurance of swift action from the police, the agitation was withdrawn. Two persons were picked up for questioning, police sources said. “The situation is totally under control, and police pickets have been posted in Karuppur and surrounding areas to maintain law and order,” a senior police officer said.