Thousands of fishermen from 40 villages around the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu have surrounded the area from about 500 metres in the sea and are shouting slogans to protest against the plant. This is a token seige of the plant, since they will not be allowed by policemen to get any closer. Activist SP Udhayakumar, who is spearheading the anti-plant protests, today said in their next action, protestors would lay siege to the Tamil Nadu Assembly in Chennai on October 29.
Mr Udhayakumar's organisation, the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), has said apart from the fishermen in Tirunelveli and the adjoining Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi districts, volunteers from various political parties are expected to participate in separate protests planned across the state. "We are laying siege against fuel loading. It will be a peaceful, non-violent protest as we have been doing for some time now. We have asked authorities to treat our protesters with respect, to respect their democratic rights. We have appealed to the government against fuel loading at the plant. When the entire world is shunning nuclear power, why shouldn't we?...we will not cross our boundaries...the protesters have been clearly told there will be no vandalism, they will not attack security officials," Mr Udhayakumar said.
The protesters have floated fibre boats and bouys in the sea and intend to stay there for the whole day today. More than 5,000 security personnel have been deployed and the Coast Guard has positioned five vessels in the area to prevent any untoward incident. Meanwhile, there is heavy security on all roads leading to the plant, Personnel from the Additional Coast Guard, Rapid Action Force, Central Reserve Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have been deployed at all key junctions, the plant site and in the neighbouring villages.
The protesters are demanding the closure of the plant, citing safety concerns. The locals say they are worried about ecological damage by radioactivity which could affect the livelihood of thousands of fishermen around the plant. Activists have also cited the Fukushima disaster in Japan, triggered by a tsunami last year, to draw parallels about the dangers of a nuclear plant.
The villagers are also demanding the release of those arrested in an earlier protest, and taking back what they term as false cases against activists. They also want the police to be withdrawn from their villages.
Last month, a protest that lasted several days ended in police action on villages around the nuclear plant, where several people were arrested. The cops were indicted by an independent commission of using excess force at that time. Police had used tear gas and lathicharge to control the protesters, who had threatened to storm the plant from the sea.
Though protests have been continuing against the nuclear plant, the Supreme Court has cleared its operationalization under the condition that all safety mechanisms are in place. The government has assured the court that the plant is safe and is "fully equipped to withstand" Fukushima-type incidents.(With PTI inputs)