A 'Sholay' moment in Tamil Nadu’s ongoing campaign against liquor turned into a tragic episode on Friday after a well known anti-liquor activist climbed atop a cellphone tower near Kanyakumari and collapsed when protesting. Kanyakumari is some 700 km south of Chennai.
Sasiperumal was leading a campaign seeking closure of a liquor shop at Marthandam town 50km away from Kanyakumari, which was open despite a court order directing its closure. He climbed up the 150 feet high tower and stayed put there for nearly five hours.
The police and administration officials on the spot assured him that the shop would be closed and asked him to come down, but to no avail. He was then seen swaying and after a while, he collapsed atop the tower.
Fire service personnel present on the spot brought him down. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead. A senior police official said that while bringing him down, he suffered a bleeding injury, but that did not seem to be the cause of his death. But since it is an unnatural death, post mortem would be carried out.
Sasiperumal from Salem is a Siddha doctor, and has been campaigning against ill-effects of liquor, which is largely affecting rural and semi-urban Tamil Nadu and could become a political issue in the forthcoming assembly elections due in less than nine months.
Khadi-clad Sasiperumal sported a Gandhi cap and was a relentless campaigner against liquor since 1985, and held protests and fasts for days together. After arrest and release, he would hit the campaign again. Three years ago, he undertook a 400-km padayatra from Salem to Chennai, spreading message against evil effects of drinking.
Another anti-liquor campaigner, Thamizharuvimaniyan hoped that the death of Sasiperumal becomes an alarm bell for the present government.
“A man has given up his life so that other lives will not be consumed by liquor. It is time for total prohibition in the state,” he said.
Political parties too came out to mourn the death of the anti-liquor campaigner. MDMK’s Vaiko and PMK’s Ramadoss demanded that the state government close down all liquor shops in the state.
Prohibition is slowly emerging as a political issue in the state. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Thiruchirapally said that Congress would come out with a liquor policy. DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi had come out with a promise that if elected to power in the 2016 general elections, the DMK would bring back prohibition.