Life was thrown out of gear in Idukki district on Monday following a hartal called by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and United Democratic Front (UDF) protesting against Tamil Nadu's stand on the Mullaperiyar issue and demanding the Central government's immediate intervention.
Cutting across political lines, activists of various parties and resistance groups protested against the delay in endorsing their demand for building a new dam at Mullaperiyar, over which Kerala has been locked in a tiff with neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Activists of various political parties blocked the Kumily check-post on the Kottayam-Kumily road from 6 a.m. demanding steps for saving the lives of people. Kerala has been persistently arguing that the 116-year-old dam poses a dire threat to the lives of over 30 lakh people in various districts.
Long queues of vehicles could be seen on either side of the check-post. However, vehicles ferrying Ayyappa devotees were allowed in. Vehicles carrying people to airports and those attending marriages and funerals, and transporting milk were not blocked. Though shops and other commercial establishments on the Kerala side of the check-post remained closed, life went on without any hassles on the Tamil Nadu side. The UDF workers, who began a sit-in on the road at 6 a.m., burned copies of the lease agreement between Kerala and Tamil Nadu on sharing the Mullaperiyar waters. Two UDF workers staged a ‘shayana pradikshinam' on the road to highlight the plight of the people, said M.M. Varghese, who represents the Vandanmedu division in the Idukki district panchayat. The UDF workers will symbolically hang three leaders of Tamil Nadu for ignoring the apprehensions of the people of Kerala, said Mr. Varghese. “We abstained from completely blocking the National Highway (NH) while airing our protest,” he said.
The LDF workers picketed the NH in front of the Kumily post office. The Left workers, who began the protest in the morning, will take out a march in the area late in the evening, said K.O. Chacko, a local leader of the Communist Party of India. Representatives of the constituents of the LDF, Left trade unions, and youth organisations took part in the agitation, said C. Ravi, a local leader of the CPI(M).
The activists of all political formations chose to stay at the Kumily junction throughout the day shouting slogans and singing songs. The vehicles carrying devotees and others were allowed to travel along the Kumily-Mundakkayam-Erumeli route and the agitation was free of any untoward incidents, said P.H. Navas, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Kumily.