Southern goons prefer guns to daggers

Gangsters in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts, once known as being skilful in using the sickle (aruval), have now turned modern and use guns and crude bombs thanks to Venkatesh Pannaiyar, who introduced the gun culture in the southern districts to take on his caste rivals, the dalits and Thevars, in the early ‘90s.

Apart from procuring guns from across the border through Bangladesh, according to a SB-CID source, Venkatesh Pannaiyar also marketed the weapons. One of his close associates, gunrunner Dhanasingam of Eral, who had developed links with weapons dealers during his imprisonment in Tihar jail, Delhi, helped him in this business, said a police source.

The gun culture flourished in the southern districts even after Pannaiyar died in a police encounter in 2003, as his rival group, led by the recently murdered Pasupathy Pandian, used it against Venkatesh Pannaiyar’s loyalists, some of whom were arrested for Pandian’s murder at Dindigul.

The Thevars in the region rely upon country bombs. The explosive materials used in stone quarries, mostly belonging to Thevars, are used to make crude bombs that are supplied all over the state. A police officer attached to the organised crime intelligence unit said, “These people are experts in making tiffin box bombs.”

The fishermen in the Radhapuram region in Tirunelveli district supply crude bombs to gangs
outside their coastal villages.

They primarily produced crude bombs for fishing, which has been banned due to the joint patrolling of the coast guard and forest department.

The arrest of two carpenters last year near Sankarankoil, Tirunelveli district, brought to light locally made guns.

Tirunelveli district police superintendent Asra Garg then said, “The guns made by them are 90 per cent as efficient as the more sophisticated guns and revolvers available in the open market.”

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