Tension mounted at Idinthakarai village near the Kudankulam Nuclear plant (KNPP), around 650 km from Chennai, as protesters clashed with the police just as fuel loading was going to begin at the plant. The police had to resort to using tear gas as thousands of protesters fled towards the ocean and threw slippers, shoes and small stones at the force.
According to police sources, around 1,000 anti-nuclear protesters led by People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) convener S P Udayakumar tried to march towards the plant but were prevented from proceeding by Rapid Action Force personnel and police half a kilometre from the site.
Despite prohibitory orders, the agitators decided to lodge their protest against the plant. When they were about 500 meters from the plant, the police jumped into action and fired tear gas shells on them.
The Kudankulam plant was to be commissioned in December last year but has been stalled because activists have raised concerns that there could be a nuclear tragedy if a Fukushima-type disaster were to occur. Villagers and fishermen remain unconvinced by assurances from experts and the government about security measures.
However the regulatory authorities have given the plant a green signal and so has the Madras High court in its verdict last week. The court was of the opinion that there was no possibility for any natural disaster at KNPP site.
Udhayakumar (Police claims that he had escaped from the spot), who was leading the PMANE was warned yesterday that he would be arrested along with many others if he went ahead with today's rally. The area has come under a tight security blanket with over 2,000 police personnel, including 400 RAF, deployed on duty. Prohibitory orders are in place in a seven km radius from the plant.
The protesters are demanding intervention by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa on this issue. The CM was initially opposed to the plant, but later did a u-turn saying that she was convinced the plant was safe. She has also written to the Prime Minister demanding that all the power generated by the Kudankulam plant be given to Tamil Nadu in view of the power shortage in the state.
M Pushparayan, a PMANE leader said, "We came out in procession waving white flags from Idinthakarai around 10.30 am and went straight to the beach in order to avoid any direct confrontation with the large police contingent present in the vicinity.”
“Senior district administration and police officials came and addressed the people and tried to convince the people and PMANE representatives, but it was failed,” said police sources.