//Fishermen flee village after police action

Fishermen flee village after police action

DISCUSSING STRATEGY: Representatives of fishermen discussing the next course of action at Semmancherikuppam on Friday.— Photo: R. Ragu

CHENNAI: On Tamil New Year’s Day, Kovalakuppam fishing hamlet, just off East Coast road here looked deserted.

Walking around the hamlet, one realised that no man was left in the village.

"They all ran away after the police came and began beating us up after midnight on Thursday night," said a woman wailing.According to some shopkeepers of Kovalam, a village famous for its dargah, on Thursday evening a posse of police personnel came looking for fishermen who "were creating trouble to a nearby star hotel." The shopkeepers said they downed the shutters and left the place.

Demand rejected

The fishermen, who ran away last night to nearby hamlets, alleged that the personnel, led by the Kancheepuram Superintendent of Police, demanded that "any four youths" be handed over to themfor creating trouble. The fishermen rejected the demand, which led to the police action.

They also said nine youths were taken away and remanded.

When this reporter contacted Deputy Superintendent of Police Ilangovan, he said the issue between the villagers and the hotel was "beyond the negotiation stage." He denied that the fishermen were lathicharged.

Representatives meet

At Semmencherikuppam, about two km from Kovalam, a huge shamiana accommodates some of the 415 men, who ran away fearing police action. Representatives from over 25 fishing hamlets all along the coast — Foreshore Estate to Mahabalipuram — met there to decide on the next course of action.

"How can the police come into the village at midnight and drag our people out," asked Jayaraman, a fishermen association leader.

The fishermen said they would not go back to their village, as they feared there might be a repeat of Thursday night’s incidents.

After meeting police officials on Friday, AIADMK candidate for Thiruporur M. Dhanapalan came back to Semmencherikuppam with some good news: the police have promised that they will not take any further action and agreed to release the nine youths. But the fishermen should keep away from the star hotel.

Fresh demands

According to both sides, trouble began after the fishermen made a fresh set of demands on the hotel. They wanted the rice given to them by the hotel increased and educational support for their children.

A spokesperson of the Taj group of hotels termed the demands "unreasonable." The group had taken up many projects in the village and the hotel had been associated with the development of the village ever since its inception.