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Wednesday, October 17, 2001

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SI opens fire, averts clash in Virudhunagar village

By S. Vijay Kumar

VIRUDHUNAGAR, OCT. 16. Averting what could have been a major communal clash, an alert police officer opened fire to disperse two groups armed with deadly weapons at Veeracholan village in Virudhunagar district today.

Earlier one group, alleging bogus voting by the other, barged into two booths and tore up ballot papers, forcing the officials to stall the civic election process. The unruly groups then came face-to-face and threw stones at each other.

When the situation got out of control, a lone sub- inspector, Mr. B. Balasubramaniam, opened three rounds of fire in the air with his 9 mm service pistol. The mob dispersed, but not before forcing shopkeepers to down their shutters. Several persons on both sides were injured. The Collector, Dr. K. Gopal, has ordered a repoll in the two booths for October 19.

According to the locals, panchayat presidents in the Muslim- dominated Veeracholan had been elected unopposed for over three decades now, and this was the first time a Hindu candidate was contesting.

The native Muslims, residing elsewhere in the country and abroad, came down to Veeracholan by bus today to exercise their franchise. However, this act was mistaken by the Hindus as an attempt to cast bogus vote.

Tension brewed even as the polling began on a dull note in the morning. Within three hours of polling, angry youth went berserk with not many police personnel available to counter the attack, even though the village was identified as ``hyper- sensitive''. Veeracholan, a reserved panchayat for women, witnessed violence in the past when the police opened fire during a 1998 Assembly by-election.

The IG (Law and Order), Mr. V. Balachandran, who visited the spot, told The Hindu that the situation was under control. ``It was timely intervention by the police officer who was patrolling the area on his motorcycle,'' he said.

No arrests were made till evening. and special police pickets were posted in the area as an uneasy calm was prevailing there.

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Section  : Southern States
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