People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy activists continue indefinite hunger strike even as police arrest 212 protesters
Tamil Nadu government started “operation Koodankulam “on Monday 19 March, arresting 203 protesters and blocking all entry points to the coastal villages surrounding the nuclear power plant. Police arrested 185 men including parish priest Father Suseelan at Kottupuli village where they were protesting against the deployment of police forces. They were taken to Tirunelveli Armed Reserve Camp. Later police arrested 18 men from Koodankulam on charges of staging protests and violating Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code.
Police started the crackdown on anti-nuclear plant protesters early on Monday arresting nine people including People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) legal advisor Sivasubramanian and Rajalingam. They are being charged with sedition including Sections 121, 121A and 153A. They were taken to Tirunelveli. Around 4000 state police and 400 central police officials have been deployed in the area. Police have set up seven more police pickets around Koodankulam nuclear plant and blocked entry points.
According to Dr SP Udaykumar, convener, People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy, who is on a indefinite hunger strike along with Pusparayan, his associate at Idinthakarai, around 5000 people assembled at the St Lourdes Church ground since Monday. “We, eight men and seven women, are on an indefinite hunger strike. The green signal for Koodankulam is a red signal for our lives. We will continue our protest till we die,” said Udayakumar.
To beat the police blockade, protesters were seen using fishing boats to ferry people to the protest grounds. “We were able to bring our people to Idinthakarai On Monday. But this morning (Tuesday) onwards, the Coast Guard and Navy used helicopters for surveillance in the area,” said Udayakumar.
Police have also intensified patrolling in the area and are waiting for orders from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha to enter Idinthakarai. Additional Director General of Police S George is camping in the area and overseeing the Koodankulam operation.
According to a senior police official, the state government wanted a ‘silent clearance operation’ in Koodankulam. “We have requested media to vacate the premises and sealed all entry points. We will use force only as a last resort,” said the police official who wished to remain anonymous. According to sources, the police have cut power supply to Idinthakarai and are planning to delink the water supply to the village.
“We are protesting peacefully. We will continue our protests till our demands are met,” said Pushparayan. According to him, the protesters want an immediate release of people arrested and the withdrawal of Tamil Nadu cabinet resolution. “We have been ditched by the Tamil Nadu government, they will pay for the betrayal and treachery,” Udayakumar told TEHELKA.
Udayakumar asked why the state government was not ready to conduct the safety drill around the 30 kilometer radius of the power plant which is mandatory before commissioning a nuclear plant. “The government is violating basic safety requirements before commissioning the plant. In such a situation we have no other option,” said Udayakumar. He warned of public health problems and food shortage at Idinthakarai and appealed to the people of Tamil Nadu to be aware of “this assault on the Tamil community”.
“They [government] are preparing to load uranium fuel rods into the reactor without conducting safety or evacuation drills. This kind of Fascist development is taking our country to another round of New East India Companies and Neo-colonialism,” said Udayakumar. Dr V Suresh, National Secretary, PUCL, Tamil Nadu-Puducherry condemned the police action by the Tamil Nadu State Government against peaceful demonstrators.
“The police action against Idinthakarai villagers resembles the Jalianwalabagh incident and raises concerns about the state government’s intention. This action comes immediately after the Sankarankovil by-elections.” said Dr Suresh. The PUCL has demanded an immediate and unconditional release of all arrested villagers and withdrawal of police force from the area.
Jeemon Jacob is Bureau Chief, South with Tehelka.