CPI(ML) Statement on Mullaperiyar Dispute

The CPI(ML) expresses grave concern over the alarming escalation of the controversy over the Mullaperiyar dam. CPI(ML) appeals to the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to maintain patience and peace, rebuffing attempts to whip up competitive chauvinism and violence.

The people living in the area downstream from the dam in Kerala are apprehensive that the 116-year-old dam might burst, endangering the habitations in the region. These long-standing safety concerns have been heightened in the wake of recent tremors in the region. On the other hand, people of Tamil Nadu fear the denial or reduction in water supply in case of construction of a new dam at Mullaperiyar and any change in terms and conditions of the 999-year agreement between both states.

Four districts of Tamilnadu have been traditionally dependent on the water rights they have long enjoyed from the dam, and there is a fear that any change in arrangements might endanger agriculture and the livelihood and survival of lakhs of peasants and labourers. These concerns assume even greater proportions in the backdrop of the deepening agrarian crisis and shrinkage of cultivable land in Tamilnadu.

Continuity of the existing water rights for the people of Tamilnadu, and safety for the people of Kerala are both genuine concerns that must be recognised in their full gravity and adequately addressed in a manner that generates confidence among the people.

A large share of responsibility for the present crisis and impasse falls on the Central Government and Central Water Commission, which have failed to act for over four decades, in spite of conflict brewing on this issue since the 1980s. The matter is now subjudice, with the Supreme Court having appointed an Empowered Committee to look into the issue. The Supreme Court must facilitate an expeditious resolution of the dispute.

We call upon the Prime Minister to use his office to facilitate dialogue between both states, generate confidence and allay apprehensions, in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable resolution. We appeal to the Governments of Kerala and Tamilnadu to abjure any hardening of positions, and work towards a reasoned and mutually favourable solution.

In the meantime, the respective state governments must take urgent steps to ensure the security of Tamilians in Kerala and Keralites in Tamilnadu. There have been disconcerting reports of chauvinistic attacks on Tamil labourers and Ayyappa devotees in Kerala, and similar targeting of Malayalees and their shops and business establishments in Tamil Nadu. We appeal to common people in both states to resist forces that are fishing in the troubled waters and fuelling discord among people who have a long history of living in harmony.

Liberation Archive