Authorities were apparently caught unawares as the protesters from more than 20 villages in and around Cumbum in the district started converging since the wee hours at Lower Camp, 48 km from here.
Top officials, including District Collector K C Palanisamy, IG Rajesh Dass and Superintendent of Police Jayachandran were persuading the villagers to disperse, police said.
Citing alleged incidents of attacks on plantation estate workers from Tamil Nadu in Kumily belt in the past few weeks as the standoff over the dam’s safety persisted, the villagers demanded proper protection for them.
“If the Kerala is not able to protect them, we will protect them” they told the officials. Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O Panneerselvam was also monitoring the situation closely and heading to the border area, officials said.
The protesters also alleged that they received information that two estate workers from Tamil Nadu were hacked to death in Idduki district in Kerala last night.
However, Theni District Collector Palanisamy said his counterpart in Idduki District has denied any such incident.
Officials said the work in cardamom estates in Kerala had been affected badly damaging the crops as Tamil Nadu workers were hesitant to go for work in view of the dam issue.
The villagers took out the march even as Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today sought to reach out to the Kerala people, saying there was no valid reason to believe that the reservoir is unsafe and they should see through the “machinations” of vested interests and divisive forces in both states.
Appealing to the people of Kerala not to succumb to any divisive forces in the interests of both states, she said it was unfortunate that a fear psychosis among the people of Kerala was being built up.
This doctrine applies to the present situation of Mullaperiyar dam because tremors have developed, seismic instablity has taken place and there is explosion of population in the downstream, the former judges said.
Since the science of geology is in its infancy none can predict big earthquakes and hence it was not safe for the old dam to continue in its present condition, the judges said.
They said they were not against Tamil Nadu considering the fact that its five districts would turn into a desert in the wake of dam break which will deprive TN the perennial source of water now being enjoyed from the Mullaperiyar dam.
They said there was no basis for the Tamil Nadu government’s allegation that kerala was creating a fear phychosis among the people by issuing statements on the Mullaperiyar dam’s safety.
The old dam was made of lime and surki for irrigating the lands in the border areas of the two states. Factors like recurring tremors and flood were not taken into account when it was constructed, Justice Kurup said.
The century old dam cannot be repaired down and the only precautionary action is to decommision it and construct a new dam. ‘Under the agreement we are bound to give them water. We should not betray them. But we have no option but to decommission it, they said.