Theni, TN: Tension gripped Lower Camp area on Tamil Nadu's border with Kerala on Saturday as over 4,000 villagers of the district took out a march protesting against alleged attacks on Tamils in Kumily in the neighbouring state in the wake of the escalation of the row over Mullaperiyar dam.

Authorities were apparently caught unawares as the protesters from more than 20 villages in and around Cumbum in the district started converging since the wee hours at Lower Camp, 48 km from here.

Top officials, including District Collector K C Palanisamy, IG Rajesh Dass and Superintendent of Police Jayachandran were persuading the villagers to disperse, police said.

Citing alleged incidents of attacks on plantation estate workers from Tamil Nadu in Kumily belt in the past few weeks as the standoff over the dam's safety persisted, the villagers demanded proper protection for them.

"If the Kerala state is not able to protect them, we will protect them" they told the officials.

Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O Panneerselvam was also monitoring the situation closely and heading to the border area, officials said.

The protesters also alleged that they received information that two estate workers from Tamil Nadu were hacked to death in Idduki district in Kerala last night.

However, Theni District Collector Palanisamy said his counterpart in Idduki District has denied any such incident.

Officials said the work in cardamom estates in Kerala had been affected badly damaging the crops as Tamil Nadu workers were hesitant to go for work in view of the dam issue.

The villagers took out the march even as Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Saturday sought to reach out to the Kerala people, saying there was no valid reason to believe that the reservoir is unsafe and they should see through the "machinations" of vested interests and divisive forces in both states.

Appealing to the people of Kerala not to succumb to any divisive forces in the interests of both states, she said it was unfortunate that a fear psychosis among the people of Kerala was being built up.

(Agencies)