Dam row: Life hit in TN district bordering Kerala

Normal life was hit badly on Tuesday as tension continued to grip towns in the district bordering Kerala with unabated mass protest by villagers.

Theni (TN): Normal life was hit badly on Tuesday as
tension continued to grip towns in the district bordering
Kerala with unabated mass protest by villagers from Tamil Nadu
over the Mullaperiyar dam row with the neighbouring state for
the fourth day.

For the second straight day, Police made a lathicharge to
stop hundreds of people from marching towards Kerala when they
assembled at the border town of Gudalur. The situation on the
Kerala side, however, remained calm.

Tamil Nadu IGP (South Zone) Rajesh Dass said over 1,000
people blocked traffic at Cumbum Mettu and dispersed while at
Gudalur police made lathicharge to disperse the protesters.
In Theni district, bus traffic came to a standstill, shops
and business establishments and educational institutions in
various places remained closed while the agitation protesting
Kerala`s demand for a new dam across Mullaperiyar also hit
farm work in cardamom estates on both sides of the border.

Road traffic between the two states remained affected at
Bodi Mettu and Cumbum Mettu in Tamil Nadu and Kumily in
Kerala, forcing devotees proceeding to the famous hill shrine
of Lord Ayyappa to go by walk, officials said.

Police said bus services were stopped in the district after
eight buses were damaged in stone pelting. A bakery was set on
fire in Andipatti area. All educational institutes in the
district have been closed.
Asked about rumours on attacks on Tamils working in Kerala
estates, Dass said Tamil Nadu police were verifying every
report with their counterpart in Kerala who had denied any
such attacks.

A report from Thiruvananthapuram quoting Idduki district
officials said vehicular traffic through the Kumily and Cumbum
Mettu chek-posts was very less in view of tension in the area.

`Situation on Kerala`s border is normal. However, the
number of vehicles passing through the check-post have come
down very considerably,` officials said.

Amid the continuing stand-off, an all-party delegation from
Kerala would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow to
press the state`s demand for a new dam.

The 23-member delegation to be led by Chief Minister Oommen
Chandy and comprising among others CPI-M veteran V S
Achuthanandan would take up with the Prime Minister the
state`s demand for construction of a new dam in place of the
116-year old existing reservoir which it says is unsafe,
officials said.

Kerala Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan flayed
the statement of an MP from Tamil Nadu that Idukki District,
where the contentious dam is located, should be merged with
Tamil Nadu. `The persons who raised such a demand do not know
the basics of Kerala`s geography`, he added.

The controversial statement was made by Theni Congress Lok
Sabha member J M Aroon who said Tamils formed the majority in
Idukki, Pirmedu, Kumily and Vandiperiyar and hence the
district should be merged with Tamil Nadu after a referendum.

In a related incident, a group of people, stated to be
Tamil speaking, took out a march in Munnar demanding merger of
Idukki District with Tamil Nadu.

The dam issue has heightened in recent weeks leading to
rising political temperature in both the states which have
sought the Centre`s intervention. Tamil Nadu is opposing
Kerala`s strong pitch for a new dam.

The issue has also reached the Supreme Court which today
advocated both the states to observe `sanity and
sensitiveness`, noting that they were adding fuel to the fire
instead of dousing it.

PTI