The ongoing agitation by the local residents against a toddy shop at South Bazar here and the counter-protests by toddy tappers reached a flashpoint on Thursday. Irate toddy tappers, led by their union leaders, stormed into the venue of the agitation, destroyed the thatched structure erected by the agitators and opened the toddy shop that had remained closed for over 40 days.
The toddy tappers reached the venue in a procession around 11.15 a.m. demanding that the shop, employing 30 toddy tappers, be allowed to function. Police personnel, outnumbered by the toddy tappers, were pushed aside and they remained mute witnesses to what followed.
As the toddy tappers gave vent to their wrath, local residents at the venue ran to the safety of a nearby house. The workers then opened the toddy shop and measured the toddy brought there. The incident occurred after Sarvodaya Mandalam leader Thayat Balan inaugurated the fast by a resident expressing solidarity with the agitation.
The agitators alleged that four women were injured in the assault by the toddy tappers. The union leaders claimed that a toddy tapper was also injured. A policeman also suffered injuries in the melee.
The agitation began on March 23 when a group of local people came out against the shifting of the toddy shop from an old rented building to a new building, hardly 10 metres away, purchased by the co-operative society running the toddy shop. All efforts for a settlement came to naught as the agitators insisted that the toddy shop, which has been in the area for 42 years, will not be allowed in the locality.
Question of livelihood
The toppy tappers' union leaders said that the workers were just asserting their right to do their job. They claimed that the agitators refused to attend meetings to discuss alternatives. The workers could not be afford to be onlookers when they were denied their right to livelihood, they added.
Kerala Madya Nirodhana Samiti activist T.P.R. Nath, who was at the venue of the agitation when the workers went berserk, said the agitators would discuss with supporting organisations the future course of action.