Residents of southern Tamil Nadu fear a deterioration in law and order following a series of murders and beheadings earlier this month.
People in Chennai, Dindigul and Tirunelveli are worried that these caste-related killings and reprisals are similar to ones that took place in the mid-1990s.
The decapitated head of Sankara Subramanian, a farmhand from the Thevar caste, was found at the Gopalasamudram cremation ground in Tirunelveli on September 13. In 2013, a Dalit man named Manthiram was also decapitated in the district.
On September 15, a gang murdered a Dalit, Mariappan, 35, cut his head off and placed it at the spot where Subramanian was murdered. Mariappan was accused in a 2014 murder case.
Police have arrested six people, including Manthiram’s son Maharaja, 20, in connection with Subramanian murder, and eight people over Mariappan’s murder.
In another incident, a woman named Nirmala Devi, 70, an accused in the murder of a Dalit leader, C Pasupathi Pandian, was killed. Her severed head was left outside Pandian’s residence.
Nirmala Devi was charged in the murder of Pandian after she had given asylum to the suspected assailants of the Dalit leader. The incident occurred in Dindigul district on September 23.
A 38-year-old man named Stephen Raj was killed and beheaded in Anumantharayan Kottai, a village in Dindigul, on September 23.
The police are yet to establish the reason for the killing but are investigating whether it was connected to Nirmala Devi’s murder on the same day.
South Zone Inspector General T.S. Anbu said the police sought to assure the public that the police will arrest the gangs that are taking the law into their hands.
A retired police officer said that the current situation is worse than in 1995 when bus services had to be stopped due to caste killings and reprisals.
Tirunelveli will hold local body elections on October 6 and 9. Political parties have called upon the police to ensure that the law and order situation improves.
AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam has asked Chief Minister M.K. Stalin to ensure peace and harmony in southern Tamil Nadu.