Kanyakumari: Sasi Perumal, the Gandhian who had been demanding total prohibition in the state, on Friday died during a protest against a liquor shop here.
The 59-year-old Gandhian died of suspected heart failure while holding a demonstration atop of a mobile phone tower demanding closure of a liquor shop near an educational institution, police said.
Sasi Perumal, who had held various forms of peaceful agitation in support of his demand for prohibition, suddenly collapsed during his more than five-hour long demonstration on top of the 200-feet tower in Unnamalai in the district.
The sudden death of the activist drew strong reactions from DMK, BJP, PMK, CPI-M, CPI and MDMK among others with all of them intensifying their demand for prohibition, which is being seen as a major issue ahead of the Assembly Elections next year.
After climbing the tower, Sasi Perumal threatened to leap to death if his demand for relocation of the shop was not accepted even as officials were holding talks with him to persuade him to come down, police said.
After talks extending to five hours, officials assured that the shop would be closed bowing to the demand of local people and Sasi Perumal.
However, by the time Sasi Perumal had fainted. The officials brought him down with the help of the Fire and Rescue Service personnel and rushed him to the government hospital here where doctors declared him brought dead, police said.
Police said heart failure was suspected to be the reason of his death, but added the exact cause would be known only after post-mortem.
Sasi Perumal had staged a series of peaceful protests, including observing a fast for 33 days, in the past few years pressing for implementation of prohibition in the state.
Expressing grief, DMK president M Karunanidhi wondered how authorities had allowed him to stage a protest atop a 200 ft cellphone tower.
Sasi Perumal's death had come at a time when the state was mourning the demise of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, "another Gandhian", he said.
PMK founder-leader Dr S Ramadoss, a strident supporter of prohibition, expressed anguish over Sasi Perumal's death and said had the Gandhian's demand been heeded and even one such shop removed, he could have been saved.
(With PTI inputs)