ANITHA LAID TO REST AMID PROTESTS IN STATE
Opposition leaders rush to Ariyalur village to pay condolences; protesters take to the streets across Tamil Nadu, burn PM’s effigy
A SMALL home in the nondescript Kuzhumur village in Ariyalur became the epicentre of protests against the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET), with leaders making a beeline to pay homage to S Anitha, the 17-yearold medical aspirant who killed herself on Friday after failing to get a medical seat despite scoring high marks.
As leader after leader, surrounded by dozens of mediapersons, reached the village, protests erupted across Tamil Nadu on Saturday. Youth from various outfits — even those without any affiliations — and cadre from the youth wing of opposition parties hit the street with anger.
The target of their ire was the Centre, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the State government, and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, among others. At many places, protesters bur nt the Prime Minister’s effigy and raised slogans against the imposition of the national-level test.
In Chennai, protesters tried to stage an agitation near the Chief Minister’s residence, but were prevented by the police. Some also moved to the residence of senior lawyer Nalini Chidambaram, who had represented the students seeking medical admissions only under NEET, a plea that the Supreme Court had upheld. Anitha was one of the petitioners against NEET.
In various parts of Tamil Nadu, students and youth cadre from the VCK, CPM, CPI, Naam Tham
izhar Katchi, All-India Democratic Women’s Association and others tried to stage rail and road blockades. Hundreds, who were detained across Tamil Nadu for staging public protests, were lodged in marriage halls and other places before being released later on Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, Anitha’s hometown Ariyalur remained mute in grief, with almost all shops across the district downing their shutters in respect. From hotels to jewellery showrooms, provision stores to pawn shops, none were open during the day after the traders’ body had called for a shutdown.
FEARING a repeat of the jallikattu and Neduvasal agitations where the protests quickly spiralled out of their control, authorities deployed at least 1,500 policemen across the district to prevent any untoward incident from breaking out.
From neighbouring villages and from across Tamil Nadu, hundreds streamed to Anitha’s home right from last evening when reports about her suicide began circulating.
The situation was understandably charged; slogans were raised every once in a while against everyone who was alleged to have played a role in the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) confusion.
Leaders like DMK working president M K Stalin, VCK president Thol Thirumavalavan, Dravida Kazhagam leader K Veeramani, DMDK leader Vijayakant, DMK’s Tiruchy N Siva MP, and dissenting AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran were among those who met her father Shanmugham, a loadman at Gandhi market in neighbouring Tiruchy.
Some of the more virulent members of the crowd demanded continuation of the protests, without cremating Anitha’s body, till the Central government banned NEET. However, at around 11 pm, the body was finally taken from their home towards the cremation ground.
But, fuelled by the present political climate in Tamil Nadu, this fire is unlikely to die down soon.
Members of the DVK hold a protest over the death of MBBS aspirant Anitha, near the BJP office in Chennai on Saturday |