Anti-Kudankulam activists to raise protest to next level

Chennai, Aug 17 (IANS) Even as the first unit at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) is progressing to generate 500 MW of electricity, the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) feels that the villagers in the neighbouring areas have not lost their steam.

"It is true that the plant has started the fission process. But that does not mean the people have accepted the power plant or that support for the protest has gone down. If only the administration does not hinder free flow of vehicles then you will see the large number of people gathering here as it used to be during the initial days of the protest," PMANE co-ordinator S. P. Udayakumar told IANS on the phone from Idinthakarai in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant from where the protest is being directed.

Even Indian and foreign accredited journalists were not allowed to enter Idinthakarai village in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here. Recently two journalists from Delhi - one Indian and one foreign - from a German radio station were denied permission to meet PMANE members.

Udayakumar said people are protesting against the setting up of a nuclear power plant in a non-violent way for the past two years but cases have been registered against them for sedition in a country that got its freedom by similar protests against the colonial British rulers.

"More than 325 cases, including around 20 cases of sedition and waging war against the country have been registered against the protestors. The morale of the people is still high and we are getting support from unexpected quarters," he added.

The irony is that people who are demanding bifurcation of the state are left untouched, he said.

India's atomic power plant operator, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), is setting up two 1,000 MW Russian reactors at Kudankulam. After several years of delay, the first 1,000 MW reactor at KNPP and India's 21st reactor began its nuclear fission process at 11.05 p.m. on July 13.

After a brief shutdown, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on Wednesday permitted NPCIL to operate the first unit at 50 percent capacity.

"We have already started our work. We are hopeful of connecting the plant to the grid generating 500 MW this month," R.S.Sundar, site director at KNPP, told IANS over phone.

Not many, even in Tamil Nadu, would have heard about the small fishing village named Idinthakarai, literally meaning damaged coast, till the villagers there started their protest against the KNPP.

The sustained protests - hunger strikes, rallies, fishing strike, sea siege of the plant - by people in large numbers shook the entire Indian nuclear establishment and also baffled the political parties as the fishermen and their family members, forgoing their work and earnings, gathered in large numbers to protest.

"We are not in a position to enthuse cadres to attend a public meeting despite distribution of biryani packets and free transport. But the continued protests by the people is what is baffling us," a politician told IANS, preferring anonymity.

Looking back at the two-year struggle, Udayakumar said after Independence in 1947, sustained non-violent protest was almost forgotten.

But such form of a protest was carried out by the fishing community which is generally considered as aggressive when it comes to their rights.

The fishermen's protest enabled the common man question the atomic energy establishment, which was not so earlier, and there was intense public debate about nuclear energy which was not there when the civil nuclear deal was signed with the US in 2005, Udayakumar said.While the street protests were carried out by the villagers in Kudankulam, Idinthakarai and others, anti-nuclear activists and others joined hands with PMANE and fought at a different plane - ferreting information by filing applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

"From the beginning, we decided to keep different fights - street, legal and technical - separate. While the people's protest will be by PMANE, the legal and technical fights was done by our organisation," G. Sundarrajan of NGO Poovulagin Nanbargal told IANS.

It was Sundarrajan who filed cases against NPCIL in the Madras High Court and then in the Supreme Court, with like-minded experts extending PMANE a helping hand.

According to him, while the protests were held at Tirunelveli district, across the state there was some form of discussion about the project - debates, posters, leaflets - that kept the issue in the people's mind.

Faced with the public demand for answers, the atomic energy establishment, including NPCIL, started sharing basic information about its projects with the people while withholding the crucial site evaluation and safety analysis reports despite an order from the Central Information Commissioner.

Though the Indian government accused PMANE of getting foreign funds and even raided some NGOs, the allegations were not proved. On its part, PMANE threw open its books of accounts for public scrutiny.

"Due the the protest, Idinthakarai's children are put to a lot of difficulties. It is more than a year since public transport was withdrawn from this area," Udayakumar said.

According to Udayakumar, while the protest against KNPP would continue in the form of civil non-cooperation with plant officials, PMANE will take its anti-nuclear power to a higher plane by targeting policy makers, intelligentsia, youth and others.

Interestingly, anti-nuclear protestors in other parts of the country are now approaching PMANE for guidance.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at v.jagannathan@ians.in)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

The former England batsman will have to lead the franchise as he is out of the match against Bangalore with a finger injury. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

Kiwi all-rounder wants to utilise the India leg to explore the country’s tourist attractions. More »

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Says his mother made him change his mind. More »