Several local policemen were seen trying to contain the rampaging crowds with mere lathis and sporting caps, exposing themselves as easy targets.
Sixteen police personnel, including DIG Sandeep Mittal, Superintendent of Police Senthil Velan and DSP Ganesan, suffered injuries of different degree in the violence.
Seven persons were killed when police fired on rampaging crowds--mostly Dalits--which set ablaze vehicles and blocked traffic following the arrest of Dalit leader John Pandian at Vallanadu in Tuticorin district.
DSP Ganesan neither had helmet nor a proper jacket and was pushed down and hit with stones on the stomach, retired police officials said pointing out that he could have dealt with the situation better with proper gear.
"The mobs are totally different now... They use very big stones and iron rods and different types of missiles. The main reason for police getting injured is that they do not have proper protection," retired DSP Subramanian said.
Police should have used the riot control force with full protection to control such serious mob violence. The force should have been kept on standby, said Balakrishnan, another retired officer.
Even most of the vehicles in which police were taken to the spot did not have proper protection. The Vajra van taken to control the crowd did not have water to be used in the cannon to disperse the mob. "What for they are having it. It was a disgrace that the police allowed even the Vajra van to be torched," Perumal, a former Inspector said.
"If the government is serious about maintaining law and order, it should provide better facilities for the armed police. It is not enough if the riot police alone had all the facilities. When you use local police in riot control, they should have adequate facilities," said Maruthiah, retired DSP, who spent most of his career in Armed Police battallion.
The situation could have been brought under control earlier if they had adequate shields. The hand shield was not enough for such a situation, as stones were being thrown from different directions, he said.
The government should make more investments on protective gear to policemen. Though the Police Commission had made recommendations for all this, nothing had been done so far,the official rued.