3 arrested as Chennai-Salem highway project sparks furious row in TN
Environmentalists in Tamil Nadu don't want a controversial new Chennai-Salem highway project to see the light of day, and point to the existence of roads connecting the two regions.
Meanwhile, farmers are objecting to the acquisition of agricultural land for the eight-lane corridor, which is expected to reduce travel time between the northwestern town and the capital by over six hours.
Three arrests have been made in recent days. Piyush Manush, an environmentalist, was arrested late on Sunday night; he's accused of instigating villgers in Salem district to protest against the project.
Manush and Kollywood actor Mansoor Ali Khan visted three villages in the region. Khan is accused of threatening to kill eight people if the government goes ahead with the project. He was arrested earlier in Chennai.
Yesterday, a student activist named Valarmathy was arrested. A complaint says she prevented revenue officials from laying a marker stone, and threatened to kill them by hitting them with it.
Valarmathy, 23, is a post-graduate student of journalism at Salem's Periyar University. She was arrested in July last year for allegedly seeking support for a protest against the implementation of a hydrocarbon project in Pudukottai.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Tamil Nadu's main opposition party, has criticised the police crackdown.
On Sunday, DMK working president MK Stalin tweeted a photo of a senior citizen who protested when land markers were laid in her farm, and was arrested.
"Is this a democratic country? Or a hunting spot for the police?" he asked.
All this comes just weeks after 13 people were killed in Tuticorin after protests against a copper smelter turned violent. Owned by the London-listed firm Vedanta, the plant faced accusations of air and water pollution, but the company denies them.
Inputs from Shalini Lobo and agencies