Local sources said over a 100 huts and houses were set on fire as the mob vented its fury on three Dalits villages, including the one from which the boy. Police have so far detained about 80 people in connection with violence.
Trouble began when N Divya, 20, daughter of G Nagarajan from Sellankottai village eloped with E Ilayaraja, 23, of Natham Dalit Colony in the neighbourhood and got married at a temple on October 14.
Hailing from the dominant Hindu community of Vanniars, Nagarajan could not reconcile with his daughter marrying a Dalit. His community members warned the Dalits against allowing the young couple back to the Natham Colony, following which the young couple approached the police for protection.
Even as police assured them of safety, the elders of the community held a kangaroo court about four days ago where the Dalit community members were asked to send back the girl.
However, Divya refused to bow to the pressure and made it clear that she wished to remain with her husband. In rural Tamil Nadu, where caste relations are still in the primitive phase, Nagarajan considered this as ignominious and hanged himself on Wednesday evening.
Enraged by this, a group of hundreds of caste Hindus attacked the Dalit colony and set huts on fire, looted and destroyed the houses, and damaged vehicles, while another group, carrying the body of Nagarajan, staged road block. There were no men in these colonies that came under attack.
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa assured stringent action against those who indulged in violence. She has directed the district administration to provide all assistance to the affected families and announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 for those who suffered losses.