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Protest against Koodankulam nuke plant gains momentum

Last updated on: November 5, 2011 20:19 IST

Protest against Koodankulam nuke plant gains momentum

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Ganesh Nadar

Anti- Koodankulam nuclear power project leaders held a massive protest meeting opposite the Palayamcottai bus stand in Tirunelveli. Thousands turned up to show their solidarity with this small band of determined activists. Ganesh Nadar reports.

Convenor of the People Against Nuclear Energy (which is spearheading the protests) S P Udaykumar, said they had not eaten all morning and were determined only to eat late evening. Apart from this meeting, another relay fast has been on at Idinthakarai, since the past 19 days.

The agitators got a big boost on Saturday with Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Vaiko leading the fast.

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Image: Crowds at Idinthakarai
Photographs: Ganesh Nadar
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MDMK supporters and party members had come in from the three southern districts. Then party has performed reasonably well in the just-concluded panchayat elections, so they were in a boisterous mood.

In all three protests – Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Idinthakarai, there was a notable presence of Christian priests.

Though Udayukumar has been denying until now that the movement has the support of the church, he said, "What is wrong if the church supports us, what is wrong if the Christians are leading this protest, Christians are also citizens of this country and they have every right to protest just like the rest of us".

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Image: An anti-Koodankulam banner
Photographs: Ganesh Nadar
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While the protesters are gaining strength every day, the government seems to be doing nothing apart from giving out press releases and setting up expert committees.

These committees are meeting in Chennai which is about 800 kms from the site. How that would help is anybody's guess.

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam was expected to come to Koodangulam on Saturday evening. Police sources said that he was expected at the Nuclear Plant at 9 pm. Kalam will hold a meeting with stakeholders in the project, and find out what he could do to solve the impasse.

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Image: Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Vaiko with other leaders at idinthakarai
Photographs: Ganesh Nadar
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Udaykumar while addressing the crowd said, "We are willing to welcome Kalam as the first citizen of the country, but we will not allow him to talk about this plant. He does not have any locus standi.

Also, we cannot forget that all his life, he has been a government servant, so he will toe the government line. We don't think he can be a real mediator."

The crowds at the Tirunelveli meeting had also been mobilised for a particular reason. On Friday, a group of prominent citizens had given a petition to the Tirunelveli Collector, supporting the project.

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Image: Young supporters at the rally
Photographs: Ganesh Nadar
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They had underlined the fact that Tamil Nadu was facing a lot of power shortage, and thus needed power from the KNPP project more than everybody else. Moreover, more than Rs14,000 crores have been spent on this project.

"Just when it was going critical no one had the right to stop it," said one of the petitioners.

There are two groups now. One supports the project, and the other against it.

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Image: Supporters at Tirunelveli
Photographs: Ganesh Nadar
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The Central government seems paralysed and does not know what to do. The State government has passed a resolution in the assembly saying that work should be stopped until all the fears of the locals are allayed.

Let us see what President Kalam can do to get over this impasse that is costing the nation crores of rupees, while a power-starved state awaits its future.


Image: A striking banner at the protest site
Photographs: Ganesh Nadar
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