Dislike for politicians’ hardtalk among anti-dam agitators

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on November 28, 2011

Inhabitants of the downstream areas of the Mullaperiyar reservoir in Kerala’s Idukki district are living in perpetual fear of a possible burst in the 116-year-old in a medium-intensity tremor any time but they are beginning to suspect that many of the politicians who push them into agitation are perhaps doing it not for the genuine cause but to promote own interests.

Even while participating in the agitations demanding immediate decommissioning of the dam that has obvious signs of frailty, many are worried that the battle cries against Tamil Nadu that they are forced to share with the politicians on the streets could generate displeasure among the Tamil people with whom they have so far coexisted peacefully.

“We have been living in this fear for the past several years but not many politicians have listened to us carefully. Our agitation here in this Pandal (at Chappath) has crossed 1,800 days but it had failed to receive such huge attention all these months. Why is it?” asks Babu Thomas from Upputhara, some 30 km away from the dam site.

Babu refuses to agree that the tremors that had occurred in the past two weeks are the reason why politicians are suddenly alarmed. “Tremors have been occurring in this area all this while. It is not the first time cracks have appeared in the dam, possibly due to the tremors. These politicians are perhaps trying to create a new vote-bank, a vote-bank of the dam-affected,” he said.

Many think that Kerala Congress (B), third largest party in the Congress-led ruling UDF, is using the dam scare to broaden its base in the mountainous eastern Kerala region. “They are in the forefront of the stir now and that is driving the other major parties crazy. The others can’t allow the Kerala Congress (B) to hijack the issue,” Babu opined.

People like Ravi S, an outdoor advertisement businessman from Thodupuzha, the main town of Idukki district, are of the opinion that an intense people’s movement is necessary to ensure the safety of the inhabitants in the area but it should not lead to the destruction of the warm relationship between the two states.

“We need a solution but it is unlikely to come if you go through the court because the lease agreement valid for 999 years is such a powerful legal weapon for Tamil Nadu. At the same time, leaders like (Water Resources Minister) PJ Joseph should take care not to make inflammatory statements against Tamil Nadu,” says Ravi.

“Joseph’s tone reflects a feeling that Tamilians are rejecting the proposal for a new dam with the deliberate intention of pushing lakhs of Keralites into misery,” says Nishad, a newspaper employee from Kattappana. “Men like Joseph should act responsibly. They are the people who should be appealing for restraint when agitations get out of hand,” Nishad said.

According to Ravi, the active involvement of the Kerala Congress (B), which can project itself as a Kerala regional party, has put the other parties like Congress and CPI(M) in a position where they are forced to speak vehemently against Tamil Nadu even when fellow-workers in their own Tamil Nadu units are adopting an anti-Kerala position on the same issue.

However, the dam issue has proved that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has lost all control over his Cabinet colleagues, says senior journalist Rajeev Nair. “(Finance Minister) KM Mani and PJ Joseph are making inflammatory statements against Tamil Nadu even when Chandy is asking people to be calm. The point is that he can’t control his colleagues,” he said.

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