4000 anti-nuclear protesters defied a police ban and marched along the coastline towards the KNPP nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. Without provocation, the police started battering people with sticks, firing rubber bullets and tear gas, and chased many people into the sea.
The police confiscated or damaged cameras, and assaulted several journalists who had been covering events.
The protest is that latest of many organised by the PMANE (Peoples Movement against Nuclear Energy). They are concerned that the owners of the Russian owned power plant have been able to negotiate a contract that means they will face no legal or financial penalty should there be an accident at the plant. Furthermore, the plant is being given permission to start producing nuclear energy with little or no health and safety regulations being adhered to.
A spokesperson for the group said that:
“When police sealed all entry points from Idinthakarai to Koodankulam, we decided to take the coastline and reached the point of protest. Police surrounded us in the morning and asked us to return to our villages. But we told them that we would return only if the chief minister gives us an assurance that plant would not be commissioned. It’s a do or die battle for us. We have been protesting against the nuke plant peacefully. If the police are trying to crush our protests, we will use all available means to continue to stage our protests. Now they have decided to upload the fuel in the plant and are going to commission the plant without mandatory requirements.”
Following the police breaking up the protest, they chased people into local villages and the surrounding countryside. The protesters then occupied roads and railway stations.
A police spokesperson has stated that:
“We did try to pacify them, but they wouldn’t obey our instructions”.
Many injuries have been reported, with at least one death – that of a local fisherman who was caught up in the protest.
The police are now hunting for alleged leaders and agitators of the protest, with the intention of charging them with ‘treason’, and other ‘trumped up’ allegations.