Salem, July 20: Villagers turned violent and indulged in stone-throwing when the police tried to stop ‘eruthuattam’ (bull dancing), an age-old ritual, at the annual festival of their village temple at Neikkarapatti, near here on Thursday.
Their action forced the police to resort to lathi charge and burst tear gas shells. Eight police personnel, including an inspector and a few village women were injured.
After first-aid, the injured were removed to the Salem Government Medical College Hospital for further treatment.
Traffic on the busy Salem-Coimbatore four-lane National Highway remained disrupted for nearly two hours in the morning when a group of miscreants staged a road blockade protesting the denial of permission for the ritual.
The police, after chasing them out amid a hail of stones, had to remove boulders, stones and tree branches placed on the highway for a distance of one km, to restore traffic.
Senior revenue and police officials, including Collector K. Maharabushanam, DIG Sanjay Kumar, SPs Ashwin M Kotnis (Salem), Ajithkumar Singh (Dharmapuri) and Kannammal (Namakkal), Salem RDO Prasanna Ramasamy and other officials held talks with villagers till late Thursday evening.
The villagers promised them that they would strive hard to restore peace.
They claimed that the police refused permission for the ‘eruthuattam’ ritual citing Supreme Court orders.
People from 18 villages had congregated on the temple premises to celebrate ‘eruthuattam,’ which, according to them, was an important ritual.
They said that the devotees had brought the bulls from various places. These animals, they said, would be taken out one by one for the ritual in front of the temple after tethering them to poles.
The devotees also claimed it was different from traditional ‘jallikattu’ (bull taming) sport, being staged in many southern districts, against which the Supreme Court had passed a set of stringent guidelines.
“Here neither the animal will be subjected to any form of cruelty nor will any life be lost,” said a temple trustee member.
Collector Maharabushanam refuted their claims saying permission was turned down to the ritual as per the Government Order based on Supreme Court guidelines that banned any acts of cruelty to animals. “The villagers accepted this and ensured peace,” he further said.
“We have detained 124 persons in connection with the violence so far. We maintained patience despite provocation and retaliated ‘mildly’ when the situation threatened to go out of control,” said SP Ashwin M Kotnis to The Hindu.
The police bolstered security in and around the village besides mounting a house-to-house search for troublemakers.