Op­po­si­tion lead­ers rush to Ariyalur vil­lage to pay con­do­lences; protesters take to the streets across Tamil Nadu, burn PM’s ef­figy

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - EX­PRESS NEWS SER­VICE @ Chen­nai

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 |

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