Ayyappa devotees targeted

Tension prevailed at Puliyarai on the Tirunelveli – Kerala border on Monday as nearly 2,000 protestors from various organisations staged road roko in protest against the Kerala government's plan to demolish Mullaperiyar dam, which provides succour to five southern districts of Tamil Nadu.

A total of 187 persons including a woman were arrested and released in the evening. Apart from Naam Thamizhar Iyakkam's Seeman and his supporters, farmers and a good number of people having affiliation to various organisations, including caste outfits, participated in the protest that assumed threatening proportion after 15 vehicles from Tamil Nadu, all carrying Ayyappa devotees, were attacked at Ariyankaau in the early hours of Monday.

As the Kerala police reportedly did not file any case in this connection, the panic-stricken affected travellers narrated their plight to the Tamil Nadu policemen deployed at Puliyarai in connection with the road roko agitation announced on the burning Mullaperiyar dam issue.

“Carrying clubs and other lethal weapons, a group of hooligans intercepted our vehicles at Ariyankaavu and smashed the windscreens of the vans, in which three drivers sustained bleeding injuries as the glass pieces pierced their faces. The Kerala police, who were standing near the spot where the attack was orchestrated, chose to be mute spectators. Hence, we seek your intervention to save at least the Tamil Ayyappa devotees returning home after offering prayers at Sabarimala,” they pleaded with the Tamil Nadu police.

When this news broke out at the protest venue around 9 a.m., the protesters who had started gathering at Puliyarai became furious, in which a couple of vehicles registered in Kerala came under attack. Following this development, only a few vehicles with Ayyappa devotees from Tamil Nadu to Kerala preferred to proceed towards Kerala while all others temporarily terminated their travel at Shencottai and Courtallam.

Since the vehicles carrying Ayyappa devotees came under attack at Ariyankaavu in Kerala, devotees travelling in more than 300 vehicles have halted at Courtallam as they have preferred to wait till the tension eases on both sides.