Hundreds of people, including farmers, picketed the Theni-Kumuli highway at Goodalur and Lower Camp since 8 a.m. on Monday in protest against Kerala's stand on the Mullaperiyar dam issue. A long line of vehicles were stranded on the three-km-long stretch of the highway.
Local people burnt the effigy of Kerala Chief Minister Oomman Chandy at three places in the town. One police constable and two agitators sustained burns in the incident. The agitators did not allow any vehicle to cross Goodalur. Vehicles transporting milk, vegetables and other perishable goods to Kerala were blocked and sent back. Even autorickshaws were not allowed to cross the town limits.
Similar picketing was held on Cumbum Mettu Road. Police personnel, deployed in large numbers, struggled to bring the situation under control. The worst affected were Sabarimala pilgrims as hundreds of vehicles were stranded on the road side between Goodalur and Veerapandi. Many started to return home as no one knew when the road block would come to an end. A private school in Goodalur was closed in the afternoon.
An unidentified gang threw stones at two vans that transported Tamil Nadu farm workers to Kerala for estate work near the Kumuli check-post in the early hours of Monday. (Over 5,000 workers go to Kerala every day from Theni district to work in cardamom estates.) Farmers said that more than one lakh litres of milk was transported daily to Kerala from Theni.
Tension spread to Cumbum town in the afternoon. An unruly mob pelted with stones some shops and hotels on the Cumbum main road. A finance firm, a hotel and a few shops were attacked. All shops downed their shutters. Eyewitnesses said agitators with lethal weapons were roaming on the road.
Local people alleged that a group of women workers were blocked by a gang in Kerala. The police negotiated their release.
The police also secured some members of the Vivasaya Munnetra Munnani, who attempted to block a bus near the railway gate.
Collector K.S. Palanisamy, in a special law and order meeting, advised the police to beef up security in Cumbum Mettu, Bodi Mettu and the Kumuli border. The situation would be under control soon at Goodalur.
Police had been deployed in Cumbum town also, the Collector added.