As tension escalated on the inter-state border town of Kumily over the Mullaperiyar dam issue, protestors on the Tamil Nadu side on Sunday threw slippers at Finance Minister O Panneerselvam and gheraoed him.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced convening a special assembly session on December 15, asserting the state would not give up its rights over Mullaperiyar due to 'imaginary threats' on its safety and security raised by neighbouring Kerala.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government's decision came two days after a special session of the Kerala assembly passed a unanimous resolution demanding construction of a new dam to replace the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam.
Paneerselvam, a senior AIADMK leader, faced the ire of the protestors on the Tamil Nadu side of the border town of Kumily when he tried to persuade them to give up their agitation following a lathicharge to quell their demonstration, which left 50 persons injured.
The police said Paneerselvam, the latest VIP victim of footwear attacks, escaped unhurt and was later taken away from the spot via another route.
Violence broke out after a man told about 10,000 protestors on the TN side that he had been allegedly attacked by some persons while walking down a road in Kumily on the Kerala border, the police said. This led to the crowd pelting stones at some people on the Kerala side from where there was retaliation. The police used lathicharge to disperse the crowd here while their counterparts also controlled protestors on the other side.
The police said cases had been registered against more than 10 persons for indulging in violence.
In Kerala, as tension mounted, the road to Theni remained closed and a large police contingent, including Rapid Action Force, was deployed to prevent marchers from Tamil Nadu from crossing over to Kerala.
On the TN side, the police blocked roads to check marchers from pushing into Kerala. Senior police officials from both sides were in constant touch with each other to keep the situation tightly under control, officials said.
Inspector General of Police R Sreelekha, who was in Kumily to review the situation, said additonal forces were deployed in the area on Sunday. Vigil was also stepped up on alternate routes, by-lanes and forest trekking paths as well in view of the possibility of protesters filtering in through them, the police said.
Kumily town, which has curio and spices shops normally busy with tourists coming to the close by lake-side resort Thekkady on the banks of the river Periyar, wore a deserted look.
The police asked shops to down shutters and put up metal barricades across the road and sealed the border check post, halting to and fro traffic totally. It said so far no untoward incident had been reported from any part of the area on the Kerala side where prohibitory orders are in force since early last week.
Jayalalithaa said the solution to the Mullaperiyar issue lies in presenting sound technical and scientific data to the Supreme Court and convincing it about the "justness of our stand."
"With regard to the present issue, neither my people nor I and my government have got anything against the people of Kerala or their government. We have no quarrel with the people of Kerala," she said.
With tempers running high on both sides in the districts of Idukki in Kerala where the dam is located and Theni in Tamil Nadu, she urged people not to get carried away emotionally and precipitate the situation and to disperse
Immediately. "... destroying their (Keralites' in Tamil Nadu) property or causing injury to them and in the process also causing ourselves pain and hardship is not a solution," the chief minister added.
The row over the dam has escalated in recent weeks, with Kerala insisting on a new dam to replace the old structure, citing safety concerns, leading to attacks on Tamils and Keralites in some parts of both states.
Opposing Kerala's position, Tamil Nadu has said the dam is as good as a new one and moved the Supreme Court on the issue. The dam is located in Kerala, but controlled by Tamil Nadu on a 999-year lease.