Kudankulam plant comes under 3-tier security cover; activists call for indefinite fast

Police moved against those protesting the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) on Monday, arresting 11 activists, including two members of the anti-KKNPP struggle committee. This is the first time the police cracked the whip on protesters in the last seven and half months.

The nuclear power plant came under a three-tier security cover soon after the Cabinet cleared the decks for the commissioning of the project.

While top rung leaders spearheading the agitation against the plant were arrested on sedition charges, about 185 others who tried to create a roadblock were apprehended by the police.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) S. George, who is camping in Madurai, told The Hindu that a strong posse of police personnel was deployed at the KKNPP site as a precautionary site. Timely deployment of manpower averted a large number of people, who had gathered in different places, from marching towards the KKNPP main gate. Police officers prevailed upon them to disperse peacefully. About 300 workers entered the KKNPP site on Monday evening and started working.

Check-posts established

“Work will begin on three shifts from tomorrow. We have taken all steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the power plant. Check-posts have been established on all roads leading to the KKNPP site and police will screen incoming vehicles. Stringent action will be taken against anybody trying to disrupt the normal functioning of the plant,” he said.

Of the total 195 persons arrested, 11 were held under Section 121 (Waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India), 124 (A) (Sedition) and 153 (A) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of IPC. Others were booked on charges of unlawful assembly etc, police sources said.

The activists, including struggle committee members S. Sivasubramanian and K. Rajalingam, were arrested at 12.45 p.m. when they were standing opposite Kamaraj Statue near the main entrance of the nuclear power project. Though Kudankulam parish priest Rev. Fr. Thatheus Rajan was also present, he was allowed to go.

The protesters, who were detained based on cases already filed against them ever since the anti-KKNPP struggle intensified in mid-August, were taken to an undisclosed destination for interrogation.

Speaking to The Hindu over phone from Idinthakarai, anti-KKNPP struggle committee convener S.P. Udayakumar said Tirunelveli Collector R. Selvaraj had contacted him on Sunday evening shortly after the Sankarankoil by-election and asked him and Rev. Fr. Jayakumar, parish priest of Idinthakarai, to Tirunelveli for some clarifications on the doubts raised by protesters over the hydrological, oceanographic and geological implications on the KKNPP.

“When I raised my suspicion over the intentions behind asking only two of us to come for the talks and that too immediately after the end of the Sankarankoil by-poll, the Collector allowed three more – M. Pushparayan, S. Sivasubramanain and Rev. Fr. M.P. Jesuraj – to participate in the talks. But I turned down the offer since I had an apprehension that we could be arrested. We also declined the offer for talks at the Radhapuram travellers' bungalow, fearing arrest. Over 4,000 police personnel have been deployed in this region,” Dr. Udayakumar said.

Even as the deployment of police personnel was under way at Chettikulam, SS Puram intersection, Kudankulam and the intersections at Vairaavikinaru, Thomas Mandapam and Kooththenkuzhi, all on the Kanyakumari-Tiruchendur highway, and also near the main gate of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, the police arrested anti-KKNPP protesters, triggering tension at Idinthakarai, just four km away, and in other coastal villages.

Over 500 residents gathered at St. Anne's Church and took out a protest rally at Idinthakarai. One hundred and eighty two persons, including women, were arrested when they blocked traffic on East Coast Road at Koottapuli intersection.

Activists called for an indefinite fast to protest against the police action and demand the release of those detained. The bell of St. Lourdes Church was sounded at Idinthakarai to alert the residents and to ask them to converge in front of the church.

Speaking to the protesters, Dr. Udayakumar said the State government, following in the footsteps of the Union government, had started acting unilaterally without understanding the sentiments of the public on the KKNPP. “Protesting the police action and the immediate and unconditional release of the detained protesters, we are starting an indefinite fast immediately.”

“We had complete faith in the Tamil Nadu government… But, succumbing to pressure from the Union government, the State Cabinet has passed a resolution in favour of commissioning the nuclear power programme,” he said.

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