A day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi backed them, people of his Lok Sabha constituency and nearby areas intensified their protest, taking out a march on Monday demanding lifting of night traffic ban on a national highway passing through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in neighbouring Karnataka.
Raising slogans against the ban, around 1,000 farmers and local people, including women, participated in the march from nearby Sultan Bathery to the Kerala-Karnataka border at Moolahalli demanding round the clock connectivity through the forest stretch of NH-766.
The relay fast by activists of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the Youth Congress, and Youth league against the ban entered the sixth day on Monday.
Four youths, who participated in the fast, had been arrested and removed to hospital on Saturday, the police said.
Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, who will be in Delhi on Tuesday, is likely to take up the issue with Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadakar.
Mr Gandhi, who represents Wayanad in Lok Sabha, is expected to visit his constituency on October 3 to express solidarity with the protest, Congress sources said.
Expressing solidarity with the fasting youth, the Congress MP had on Sunday said the traffic ban has caused hardship to lakhs of people in Kerala and Karnataka and asked the central and state governments to safeguard the interests of local communities, while protecting the environment.
The movement of traffic through the tiger reserve is banned from 9 pm to 6 am to reduce disturbance to wildlife.
Mr Vijayan had suggested that construction of elevated stretch through the core critical tiger habitat.
However, Mr Javadekar, in a letter to Mr Vijayan this month, had stated that the state's recommendations had been discussed at the committee of Secretaries chaired by Cabinet Secretary and it was recommeded to maintain status quo on restriction of night time traffic through Bandipur Tiger reserve and strengthen the alternative route already available for night time traffic.
The minister also stated that the alternative route, though passing through forest area, was not a Critical Tiger Habitat and can be suitably mitigated.
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