Thiruvananthapuram/Chennai: The vexed Mullaperiyar dam row on Wednesday took a new turn with stray incidents of violence targeting Keralites reported in parts of Tamil Nadu even as Kerala decided to step up pressure on the Centre by taking an all-party delegation to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Sticking to the state's stand on construction of a new dam, an issue which triggered the current crisis, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced after a Cabinet meeting that the delegation would soon meet Singh.

His announcement came as Kerala filed an interim plea in the Supreme Court seeking to lower the water level to 120 ft in the 116-year-old dam, opposing Tamil Nadu's plea for raising the level to 142 ft.

The delegation would press for a new dam in view of the serious safety concerns caused due to frequent tremors in Idukki district where the present structure is located.

Protests against Kerala's stand and reported attacks on some Ayyappa devotees from Tamil Nadu on Monday took an ugly turn today when some protesters in Tamil Nadu set a bus on fire and targetted commercial establishments owned by Keralites in Chennai and some other parts of the state.

Security has been stepped up in the city as the row over the dam escalated with both Tamil Nadu and Kerala upping the ante on the issue.

A Kerala-bound bus was set ablaze in Gudalur in Theni district after the passengers were asked to alight.

In Coimbatore, 40 persons, belonging to two different organisations, were arrested when they attempted to force some shopowners, particularly jewellery establishments run by Kerala-based Groups, to down shutters.

Fifteen people, belonging to 'Tamil Deshiya Pothuvudamai Katchi', raised slogans and asked the jewellers and some others to close shop, police said.

A Keralite's bakery was attacked allegedly by some members belonging to the 'Naam Tamizhar Katchi', who forcibly downed its shutters. They were arrested, police added.

Backing Kerala's stand for a new dam, Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan observed a day's fast at Vandiperiyar in Idukki district and appealed to the Tamil Nadu government not to do anything that would put the lives of Keralites at stake.

The Kerala Cabinet, which took stock of the dam issue, also put a lid on the row over submissions made by Advocate General in the High Court in the case accepting his explanation to the council of ministers.

MPs from Kerala and Tamil Nadu also clashed in both Houses of Parliament seeking Centre's intervention in the resolution of the contentious issue, forcing adjournment of the Lok Sabha on the matter.

As stray incidents of violence against Kerala-based commercial establishments were reported in Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa held a review meeting in Chennai.

Those who participated included ministers and officials including Finance Minister O Panneerselvam and Chief Secretary Debendranath Sarangi and DGP K Ramanujam, a state government release said without elaborating.

On Tuesday Jayalalithaa had expressed concern over alleged attacks on Sabarimala pilgrims from Tamil Nadu in Kerala and asked them to maintain restraint.

PM discussed issue with Cabinet colleagues

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed with his senior Cabinet colleagues the Mullaperiyar dam issue over which Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been at loggerheads.

The discussion took place after the Cabinet meeting during which Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal were present.

Singh had been meeting a number of delegations from Tamil Nadu and Kerala over the past week who demanded his intervention in the issue.

While Tamil Nadu wants the level of the dam, located in Kerala's Idukki district, to be raised to 142 feet from 136 feet, while Kerala wants to build a new dam near the existing structure.

Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy had met Singh last week while his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa had written three letters to the Prime Minister in this regard.

Singh's meeting with his senior colleagues also came in the wake of the Centre inviting officials from both states for discussions on the issue later this month.

(JPN/ Agencies)