Protesters lay siege to K'kulam plant again
Activists urge govt to withdraw cases
Tension mounted on coastal villages near the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) on Monday as anti-KNPP protesters laid siege to the nuclear plant.
Hundreds of fishermen from the coastal hamlet of Idinthakarai and over 40 surrounding villages and districts, took to the sea surrounding the KNPP complex in about 650 boats, demanding closure of the nuclear plant.
S P Udayakumar, coordinator of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), led the protests from 10 am to 4 pm. The protesters tenaciously stay put in the sea, shouting slogans against the KNPP and the country’s nuclear establishment. However, they did not confront the police.
“The protests from the sea front passed off peacefully. Nothing untoward happened and they all went back with their boats around 4 pm,” Tirunelveli district SP, Vijayendra Bidari, told Deccan Herald. There were no arrests as well.
With a huge contingent of the state police and para-military forces including the Rapid Action Force in place since Sunday, the situation was tense but ended uneventfully. Udayakumar had sent a letter to the police on the protesters’ intent to organise a “peaceful sea siege 500 metres from KNPP by laying buoys and placing our own fibre boats.” However, the police did not lower their guard.
“Our main focus is on the safety and security of the nuclear power plant and we have ensured that,” said Bidari. Apart from reiterating their demand to “scrap KNPP and convert it into a people-friendly project,” Udayakumar said: “Monday’s peaceful protest was also to demand withdrawal of all the false cases against us, besides withdrawal of the police from all villages surrounding the KNPP.”
Despite Udayakuamr’s pacifist avowals, senior police officials took no chance and mobilised the uniformed men in good strength to avoid repetition of the September 10 violent showdown, when the police had to resort to the baton to disperse the enraged protesters.
The protests led by the PMANE has been centered at Idinthakarai for the past 415 days, even as loading of uranium fuel rods in the first 1,000 Mwe reactor has been completed under the surveillance of officials of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Of late, the state unit of the Congress, led by former president E V K S Elanvogan, have been campaigning hard, demanding the arrest of Udayakumar and his close associates to ensure smooth commissioning of both units at the KNPP.
Fishermen held in Bahrain
Meanwhile, 22 fishermen who “inadvertently” strayed into the waters of Bahrain, were held by Bahrain Police Force on Monday night, said P Justin Antony, Founder-President of Tamil Nadu Fishermen Development Trust.