Rani jumped into the Aristo roundabout after parking her moped nearby. Passers-by and policemen on duty were taken aback as she suddenly poured petrol on her body and set fire. “Fire engulfed her rapidly as she had doused herself with petrol. Cantonment police who rushed to the spot tried to extinguish the fire along with public. As she sustained severe burn injuries, police rushed her to MGMGH where she is receiving critical-care treatment,” said S Umasankar, inspector at Trichy cantonment police station.
A letter signed by Rani found near the immolation spot read: “Take action against influential people who launched atrocities against Arunthathiyars in Kariampatti village in Dindigul district and revoke false cases against Arunthathiyars”. She had scribbled the message on a letter pad of ‘Aathi Tamizhar Peravai’. However, inspector Umasankar denied the police got any suicide note as the letter didn’t indicate intent to suicide.
In her letter, Rani paid tributes to Neelaventhan, a resident of Tiruppur immolated himself in September. He too had protested against atrocities on the Arunthathiyars. She also demanded higher reservation quota for the community.
Investigation revealed that her employers were ignorant about her association with any socio-political outfit. “Rani is working as a provisional animal husbandry-assistant at the veterinary hospital at Palakkarai since December 6, 2012. She was due to get regularised next year. She had left the office on Monday evening. We didn’t know that she was a functionary in an outfit,” said I Chinnadurai, joint director of animal husbandry department, adding that MGMGH doctors informed him that she will recover.
K Chozhan, the state deputy secretary of Aathi Tamizhar Peravai, said Rani took the extreme step to persuade the state government to act on her demands. “She is attached with our outfit for more than seven years. She was involved in various agitations for the welfare of Arunthathiyars. A festival celebrated by our people in Kariampatti was spoiled by others and it led to violence. Police had arrested several people on both the sides. It is this incident and the subsequent actions that forced her to attempt suicide,” Chozhan revealed.
A large posse of police force has been deployed around MGMGH to avoid any untoward incident.
Rani’s husband Arumugam is an employee at MGMGH. Their daughter, Subbulakshmi, is married and two sons Guganathan and Krishnan are working in private companies.
Aathi Tamizhar Peravai movement was launched by R Athiyamaan in 1994 with its head quarters in Coimbatore. The objective of the movement is to empower the Arunthathiyars, one of the most marginalized dalit communities in the state. It also has demanded raising the reservation of Arunthathiyars from 3% to 6%. The outfit, which has been protesting against manual scavenging, opposes discrimination against dalits.