Sporadic incidents of violence and forced closure of shops were reported in high range Idukki where a dawn-to-dusk hartal is being observed to
protest the anti-encroachment drive by the revenue department.

The hartal, called by the outfit Munnar Protection Council here, assumed political significance as it is being spearheaded by ruling CPM against the Revenue Department, headed by CPI nominee in the LDF government.

The hartal was announced soon after the Devikulam sub-collector cancelled the title deeds of 20 acres of land, owned by LDF independent MP, Joyce George and his family.

Normal life was affected and public transport vehicles mostly kept off the roads in the 10 panchayats-- Pallivasal, Bison valley, Santhanpara, Chinnakanal, Marayoor, Vattavada, Kanthalloor, Munnar, Devikulam, and Vellathooval-- where the hartal is being observed.

In some places, agitators forcibly closed shops and disrupted traffic. Vehicles ferrying tourists including foreigners were blocked in Munnar, the famed tourist resort. 

A taxi driver was allegedly assaulted and some media personnel, covering the hartal, were manhandled by agitators, police said.

Though five CPM activists were taken into custody in connection with various incidents of violence in Munnar, they were later let off, they said.

Protesting against incidents of violence in hartal, Congress-led UDF activists-led by A K Mani, former MLA, took out a march in Munnar town this morning.

Activists of CPI, the second largest partner in the ruling LDF, are keeping away from the CPM-backed hartal. 

A war of words is currently on between the leaders of CPM and CPI over the resignation of Thomas Chandy as Transport minister after the High Court recently made strong observations against him for his decision to challenge Alappuzha district collector's report which found large-scale violations of land rules by his luxury lake resort.

Chandy, facing land encroachment allegations, had resigned on November 15.