Leader of the anti-nuclear plant project, S P Udaykumar, while boycotting a meeting with central government-appointed experts, said that his group had lost faith in the central government and would now only hold meetings with state government officials. Ganesh Nadar reports from Tirunelveli.
The fourth round of talks between experts appointed by the central government on the Koodankulam nuclear power project and those protesting against the project could not take place as the protestors were attacked by members of the Hindu Munnani at the Tirunelveli collectorate in Tamil Nadu.
Newspapers on Monday had reported that the anti-nuclear power project group would be bringing their own set of experts on the issue. However, by late evening there was news that they would not attend the meeting but would come and submit a petition listing their demands.
On Tuesday morning, six of the nine government-appointed experts arrived at the collectorate. By 10.45 am, two more experts arrived but there was still no sign of those protesting against the nuclear plant.
A little while later, the collector's personal assistant received a phone call from the agitators informing that there were elements waiting near the collectorate to attack them and so they needed protection. The PA asked the group to come to the collectorate assuring them that there were plenty of policemen outside the office.
Meanwhile, Hindu Munnani state vice president V V Jaikumar arrived with 15 of his supporters and among them was a well-known thug, Vijayan of Chettikulam. Jaikumar said that they had come to the collectorate to give a petition in support of the plant.
When Jaikumar was speaking to the media, the group of anti-nuclear power project arrived. Activists of the Hindu Munnani immediately attacked them calling them, "anti-nationals, who were doing everything to stall the progress of the nation." They beat up two women and also threw stones at Udaykumar's jeep, damaging it.
The cops chased the Hindu Munnani activists and arrested them. The anti-nuclear project protestors shouted slogans against the hooliganism.
Udaykumar declared that they were boycotting the meeting as they did not feel safe there. He alleged that the government was determined to kill them. He blamed the Congress and the Hindu Munnani for the assault.
Udaykumar also said that the Congress-led government at the Centre was responsible for this mess. Saying that he had lost faith in the central government, Udaykumar said the protesting group would not meet the experts but would only hold meetings with state government officials.
He also said that minorities were not safe in India. Udaykumar said he would inform the international community that minorities were being attacked.
Udaykumar also alleged that the central government-appointed experts were not fair. "They have not bothered to visit our village or any surrounding villages. They only visited schools and brainwashed children," he said.
They had meetings in Madurai and Chennai. "How can you have meetings in Madurai, which is 200 km away, and Chennai, which is 700 km away? They should have had meetings with us. We asked them for so many documents but they did not provide any. All they gave us was the environment impact study," said Udaykumar.
Surprisingly, in spite of all the commotion at the collectorate, Jaikumar met the collector and handed a petition supporting the nuclear plant at Koodankulam. The collector did not ask him about the attack.
Following the arrest of members of his group, Jaikumar went to the police station and asked the police to release them. Since his demand was turned down, Jaikumar declared that he was going to fast outside the police station till his men were released.
Meanwhile, the government experts left without talking to reporters. Collector R Selvaraj met the press reluctantly after the experts left. "Action has been taken against the people who attacked the women. They will be remanded and produced in court. I have just spoken to Udaykumar and he has agreed to come for talks after we fix a date," he said.
Udaykumar, however, denied that the collector had called him.
On hearing of the trouble at the Tirunelveli collectorate, villagers from 13 villages are planning a gherao of the nuclear plant.