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Violence, arson in Tamil Nadu following Jayalalithaa’s conviction

CHENNAI: Stone-pelting and torching of public property, attacks on media persons and forceful closure of shops erupted across Tamil Nadu on Saturday as mobs reacted to the sentencing of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to four years imprisonment by a special court in Bangalore in a graft case.

It all began with burning of effigies of senior DMK leaders, including party chief M Karunanidhi, and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy when the conviction was announced and violence rocked the state after the court sentenced Jayalalithaa to four years in jail and slapped a fine of Rs 100 crore.

Some hours after the conviction was announced, most of the private and public vehicles went off the roads in Chennai, leaving students and office-goers stranded. Crowds then forced shops to down shutters. Protesters went on the rampage in many parts of the state damaging shops.

Media persons of TV channels were attacked near Poes Garden, Jayalalithaa’s residence, while their cameras were damaged, police said. Several people were injured in violence in various parts of the state in which many vehicles including public and private buses were damaged, reports reaching the state headquarters suggested.

As the news of the conviction spread, AIADMK cadres' became despondent and women activists were seen wailing.

Sensing trouble, DMK sought extra protection to the party office and some of its leaders, including its General Secretary K Anbazhagan who had impleaded in the wealth case filed against Jayalalithaa and on whose petition the trial was shifted from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka by the Supreme Court.

In Madurai, the stronghold of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s son MK Alagiri, AIADMK activists allegedly ransacked vehicles parked on the road, pelted stones and smashed window panes of several vehicles to vent their anger.

Police said that in Coimbatore, the DMK office was ransacked by protestors who also burnt the pictures of Karunanidhi and Anbazhagan. All the shops remained closed while stone pelting incidents were reported.

Similar incidents have been reported in Udhagamandalam, Tiruppur, Palladam and other areas.

Police said parts of Kancheepuram, Salem and Cuddalore also witnessed violent incidents with protesters burning effigies of Karunanidhi and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy whose petition led to filing of the disproportionate assets case and culminated in her conviction.

Stones were thrown at Swamy’s residence in Chennai, police said.

Movement of buses between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and Kerala has been affected. Police have deployed forces in various violence-hit areas.

An AIADMK activist S Venkatesan (65) attempted to set himself ablaze here by pouring kerosene. He was rushed to hospital where he is battling for life, police said.

As the protests continued, Governor K Rosaiah, summoned top officials of the state administration, including police officers, and reviewed the situation and directed them to initiate steps to maintain law and order.

Police said more than 20 buses were damaged in southern districts in stone-pelting allegedly by AIADMK workers and 20 persons were injured.

A tense situation prevailed in all southern districts, including Madurai, Tirunelveli and Dindigul, with AIADMK workers demanding closure of shops, blocking train and bus traffic. An effigy of Karunanidhi was burnt.

Police said more than 1000 AIADMK workers, who indulged in violence, were taken into custody in Madurai.

Police made a lathi-charge to disperse AIADMK workers who pelted stones at the BSNL office and head post office in Madurai. Three AIADMK workers were injured.

An official said hundreds of AIADMK men were taken into custody in the southern districts and they would be released later.

Many supporters of Jayalalithaa, especially women, were seen wailing in Dindigul and Sivaganga. The transport corporation withdrew buses at several places.