Denying that they were lathicharged, IG says some elements were trying to create trouble
Thousands of protesters from several villages of Theni district were chased away by the police when they tried to march into Kerala through the Cumbum Mettu Road on Monday.
The agitation went on till late in the evening with the protesters urging the government to announce stoppage of vehicular traffic to Kerala in all the 12/13 routes in the State.
Even as the Inspector-General of Police (South Zone), Rajesh Das, denied that the protesters were beaten up, hundreds of agitating people created road blocks at several places, in the Chinnamanur-Goodalur section, complaining that the police had turned against their genuine demand for Periyar water.
Mr. Rajesh Das told reporters that his men, who had not properly eaten or slept for three days now, had been showing utmost self-restraint. “Some of the elements among the protesters were frustrated and trying to create trouble. Police are being pushed and the barricades run over with tractors,” he said.
He said people, who were injured while trying to venture through the mountains and forests, had tried to make it look as if the police beat them up. The police had been allowing the people to protest and stage demonstration in a peaceful way. “I took the risk and allowed them to march near Kumily. But some of them threw chappals, iron roads and stones at us,” he said.
Stating that the police had identified mischief mongers, he said they would be rounded up soon. Besides Additional Director General of Police George, DIGs and SPs were among the 3,500 police people from across the State camping in the troubled areas.
Warning of stringent action, Mr. Das expressed hope that the situation would be brought to normality in two days. He said more police force would be moved into the district.
However, earlier addressing a huge crowd who complained of “lathicharge” by the police on Cumbum Mettu, Mr. Das said he did not support those police personnel who had committed the mistake. “I am sorry (for that),” he said.
After two days of march towards Kumily, villagers of C. Pudupatti, Anumanandhapatti, Cumbum, Chinnamanur and Uthamapalayam tried to march on the Cumbum Mettu Road. “At least 10,000 of us, including 2,000 women, were going to show our protest to the Kerala government, when the police lathicharged us. Many of the women were injured,” one protester said.
Irate protesters threw stones at the police and broke the windshields of the car of Tiruppur Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan. Only the driver of the vehicle was in the car then.
As the message of “lathicharge” reached the people elsewhere, they started to block roads cutting down trees, dumping boulders, wooden logs and burning tyres.
Over 500 men and women squatted on the highway at Goodalur, blocking the way for a police convoy that was rushing towards Cumbum Mettu. Some youth set tyres on fire on the road near the Goodalur bus stand. The blockade continued till late in the evening, though police managed to pacify protesters into allowing police vehicles in some places.
As the agitation turned violent, public transport that was operated up to Uthamapalayam was withdrawn in the afternoon.
Earlier in the day, the police prevented tractors and vans carrying protesters towards Cumbum at several places. However, many people walked their way to Cumbum Mettu. The protesters also found alternative routes to reach Cumbum on their two-wheelers.
Recalling the assurance given by District Collector K. S. Palanisamy that all the cargo and passenger traffic to Kerala would be blocked, the protesters asked the police, “Two days have passed since the assurance was given. No announcement has come so far. Let the announcement be made on television, we will give up the blockade,” they said.
As the protesters gave in to the police in Cumbum, uniformed personnel started removing the boulders and trees allowing vehicular traffic.
However, a section of people, who had been blocking road at Uthamapalayam tried to cut down a huge tamarind tree at around 6 p.m. As the police used force to chase them away, some of them pelted two buses with stones at the Uthamapalyam bus stand.
A few people chased away the staff of the Theni MP's office in Theni. They locked the grill gate and staged a dharna for nearly an hour. Road blockade was seen in at least 20 places where huge trees were cut down and tyres burnt.
No trouble, say Ayyappa devotees
Meanwhile, at least 15 Ayyappa devotees were seen walking their way back home near Goodalur at various places in Tamil Nadu. “We did not face any trouble in Kerala. We were dropped in Kerala buses on the border. After that we walked for a distance and got into share autos to reach Goodalur,” one of the devotees from Tiruchi said.