Congress MP Haroon Rashid and party cadre held for bid to take out protest rally

Demonstrations and fasts by villagers and protest rallies by villagers at various places affected normal life in different parts of Theni district on Thursday.

Theni MP J. M. Haroon Rashid and around 350 Congress cadre were arrested when they attempted to take out a protest rally to Goodalur from Palanichettipatti near Theni demanding the increase in storage level of Mullaperiyar dam to 142 feet.

Mr. Haroon said that the Prime Minister had informed him that he could understand the feelings of the people in Tamil Nadu. “On the timely intervention of the Prime Minister, Kerala had agreed to stop all agitations and the Congress would protect interests of people, particularly farmers, in five southern districts in the State,” he said. “We will fight to get the dam level increased to 142 feet,” he added.

Around 1,000 Congress cadre thronged the MP's office at PC Patty and started moving towards Theni. Over 300 police personnel were deployed to prevent them from marching towards Goodalur. They insisted that they should be allowed to go up to Goodalur or at least till Cumbum. The police refused permission as a prohibitory order under Section 144 of Cr. P. C. had been promulgated in the area. Later, the police released all the arrested persons in the evening.

Black flag demo

Members of All India Forward Bloc, with black flags, laid siege to the convoy of Mr. Haroon on Theni-Madurai highway condemning the silence of the Central government on the Mullaperiyar issue. They stopped the convoy near Koonoor and did not allow it to enter Theni. Later, the police arrested the protesters and allowed the MP to proceed.

Around 700 people of Upparpatti village observed a dawn-to-dusk fast demanding protection to the dam and an increase in its storage level. Similar fasts were observed at 18 villages in the Cumbum valley. Uneasy calm prevailed at Goodalur and Lower Camp as people in Goodalur formed a human chain.

However, shops in Goodalur remained closed. Normality was restored at Cumbum, Chinnamanur and Theni towns.

Workers return

Workers, who fled Kerala estates owing to an insecure situation, returned to Thevaram, the nearest point from Kerala border through Kudiraipanjan Parai, on the second day on Thursday.

Sufficient force was deployed at the ghats to receive men, women and children fleeing Kerala. The police team collected personal details of all workers and their family members before sending them in vans to Thevaram bus stand. Food was provided for them at Thevaram bus stand. Tamil Nadu workers in cardamom estates at Thalayangal, Matuthavalam, Udumbansolai in Idukki district started their journey at 7 a.m. and reached Thevaram around 1.30 p.m. after passing through 15 km of hilly slopes near Kudiraipanjanmettu as agitators in Kerala blocked Sakkaluthumettu road since morning.

Animal movement was hectic in the morning, they said. “We have no option. Sakkaluthumettu road is comparatively safe but it was blocked,” said K. Kaliappan from Udumbancholai.

In some places, estate owners in Kerala brought the workers in vans safely to the border. “Estate owners have asked us to leave for Tamil Nadu and come back after restoration of peace,” said R. Murugesan.

Residents of Thevaram, Varushanadu, Kombai and Kadamalaigundu are returning home from Idukki district.

More than 100 people have reached Thevarm bus stand so far.

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