In one of the worst cases of arson in recent times, 152 Harijan huts were burnt in Thottakkinchi village, 120 km from Tiruchion Wednesday.

The police burst tear gas shells, opened fire through buckshot firing and saved the lives of 31 Harijans who were caught in a hut and prevented the hut from being burnt.

The entire village is terror stricken and people are afraid to say what really happened.

What was the genesis behind the orgy of violence?

Panguni Uthiran is an annual gala festival held in the famous Mariyamman temple in Thottakkinchi village, 120 km from Tiruchi on the Karur Salem road.

The festival commenced on Monday and on the last day of the festival on Wednesday. The holy Kambam was taken to the Cauvery River for immersion by the caste Hindus.

A fire walking ceremony was also held on the last day. It is said that there were strained feelings between caste Hindus and Harijans since the latter were not allowed to participate in fire walking.

Caste Hindus numbering about 2,000 returned from the Cauvery River after the annual Panguni Uthiran festival on Wednesday and a few caste Hindu youths allegedly teased a few Harijan girls. Kanniyammal (50) a Harijan woman, who accompanied these girls, abused the caste Hindus.

Harijans numbering about 1,500, who were in the bazaar, also abused the caste Hindus for not allowing the Harijans to participate in fire walking (theemithal) held as part of the temple festival. Then it was the turn of the caste Hindus to abuse the Harijans.

Suddenly, it became a free for all and the caste Hindus and the Harijans started pelting stones at each other.

Four police constables, who went to maintain order and restore peace, sustained simple injuries.

Fire service unit’s requisitioned from Karur and Namakkal were not allowed to enter the village.

The situation was brought under control in the early hours of Thursday.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 26, 1985