Chennai: Protests erupted across the state and leaders of political parties and other organizations were arrested on Tuesday as the Ram Rajya rath yatra organized by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) entered Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu.

Opposition parties including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) created a ruckus in Tamil Nadu assembly and condemned the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government for allowing the yatra in the state.

DMK working president M.K. Stalin, who is also the opposition leader, said the yatra will disturb communal harmony, and affect law and order. “This is AIADMK government or BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government," he asked.

DMK legislators, including Stalin, staged a protest in the assembly and were evicted. They later staged a road blockade and courted arrest.

Earlier in the day, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol. Thirumavalavan and 33 others, who were on the way to take part in the protests near Tirunelveli, were arrested near Madurai, reported The New Indian Express.

All those who were detained were released by Tuesday evening.

On Monday, Tirunelveli district collector Sandeep Nanduri imposed section 144 of the criminal procedure code from 19-23 March across the district.

In the order, the collector said, “… it is necessary to promulgate orders under section 144 for the entire Tirunelveli district, and that even a minor incident in the Rathayathra along the entire route will snowball into a major communal clash with serious impact on the law and order situation in the district."

DMK’s Stalin, in a statement on Monday, said chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, who had vowed to contain religious extremism at a recent district collectors’ conference, had allowed the rath yatra.

“The BJP and its sister organisations are trying to nurture religious extremism in Tamil Nadu. But, in the land of Periyar and Anna, they will not succeed in their attempt," he added.

The 41-day rath yatra was flagged off by Sree Ramadasa Mission Universal Society (Sree Rama Dasa Mission) from Ayodhya on 13 February. The yatra will cover about 6,000km, demanding construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya.

Stalin had earlier stated that the rath yatra would amount to contempt of court as the Ram temple issue was pending before the Supreme Court.

The yatra that entered Puliyarai in Tirunelveli on Tuesday from Punalur in Kerala will pass through Sengottai, Ilanji, Tenkasi, Kadayanallur, Puliyangudi, Vasudevanallur, Sivagiri and proceed to Rameshwaram via Rajapalayam and Madurai.

On 22 March, the yatra will move to Kanyakumari from Rameshwaram through Tirunelveli.

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