Three MPs go on fast; more organisations start agitation

The heavy downpour on Sunday did not deter thousands of people under the High Range Protection Council from thronging the venue of the protest being staged by the Mullaperiyar Agitation Council here demanding the decommissioning of the Mullaperiyar dam.

Vehicular traffic was disrupted for hours on the Kattappana-Kottayam road here, as it turned into a confluence of protests by various organisations in a show of support to the leaders on a hunger strike. On Sunday, it was the turn of P.T. Thomas, Anto Antony, and Jose K. Mani, MPs, to fast. Many leaders from various parties visited the venue.

Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan is expected to go on a fast in the coming days.

Many people staged hunger strikes in various towns in Idukki under the auspices of non-governmental organisations. There are signs that the various streams of protest may come under an umbrella with the support of political parties.

C.P. Roy, chairman of the council, told The Hindu on Sunday that requests had been pouring in from places as far as Palakkad and Thiruvanathapuram for time to take up hunger strike at the venue. He said it would be tough accommodating all those coming to express solidarity with the agitation.

Mr. Roy said never before in the history of the State had such a mass movement for a public cause been taken up without political or other differences. Most people arriving here were from districts unaffected by the threat posed by the 116-year-old dam, a fact that no government could afford to ignore. The relay hunger strike had been going on peacefully for the past 1,807 days at the venue.

Two injured

A march organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at Vallakkadavu, declaring the opening of a channel from Mullaperiyar to the downstream, turned violent resulting in a lathi-charge and injuries to two protesters. Breaking the police barricade, they hoisted a flag on the dam.

Even before the inauguration of the march by BJP State unit president V. Muraleedaran, the activists entered the dam through a parallel road and tried to open a channel at the baby dam and hoisted the flag. They were arrested.

The BJP leaders said the strike would intensify in the coming days and the only solution was the decommissioning of the dam.

A Youth Congress march had turned violent on Saturday, resulting in a minor lathi-charge.