Kudankulam protesters assaulted, talks cancelled (Second Lead)

January 31st, 2012 - 11:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Jan 31 (IANS) A civil group spearheading the protest against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) called off talks with the central government-appointed experts panel after the former’s members were assaulted in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu Tuesday, an activist said.

“We have no faith in the talks. None of the questions we had asked were answered and the documents we had asked were not presented to us. Meanwhile, our members have been assaulted when they had gone to participate in the talks. We are calling off our talks,” S.P. Udayakumar, coordinator of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), told IANS.

The fourth round of talks at Tirunelveli between the central government’s experts panel on KNPP and the Tamil Nadu government’s panel was all set to take place at the district collector’s office Tuesday morning.

However, members belonging to Hindu Munnani group started attacking the vehicles of two members of PMANE in the state panel, along with other activists, when they were entering the collector’s office.

“One of our members Raj Lingam was pulled out of the car and was assaulted. Similarly, there were some women in a van who were assaulted. We have lodged a police complaint and are going back to Kudankulam,” M. Pushparayan, convener of the Coastal People’s Federation and a member of the state panel, told IANS over phone.

A senior police officer told IANS that 10 people have been taken into custody.

Objecting to the arrest of Hindu Munnani members, Rama Gopalan, founder of the organisation, told IANS: “The ruckus was initiated by anti-nuclear activists and our members retaliated. There is no justification for the police to arrest one side alone.”

He wondered how the police allowed the anti-nuclear activists to come in such a large numbers to the venue.

“We had got due permission to present a petition to the district collector demanding the operationalising of the nuclear power plant,” Gopalan added.

He said there are people within Kudankulam and surrounding villages who want the power plant to operate but they are being silenced by the anti-KNPP activists.

Meanwhile, with the news of assault reaching them, villages in Kudankulam and Idinthakarai gathered outside the KNPP gates and were in an agitated mood.

“At this juncture, officials from NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd) called me and sought cooperation to allow some containers inside the KNPP complex. I told them to wait as the situation is tense,” Pushparayan told IANS.

Superintendent of Police (Tirunelveli) Vijayendra S. Bidari told IANS over phone: “We are holding talks with the people in Kudankulam. There is some misunderstanding about the attack… The situation is under control.”

India’s nuclear power plant operator NPCIL is building two 1,000 MW atomic power reactors at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.

The project, originally budgeted to cost Rs.13,171 crore, was initially delayed due to non-sequential deliveries of equipments from Russia. The revised project cost is estimated to be around Rs.15,824 crore.

Villagers of Kudankulam, Idinthakarai and others fear for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident.

Their agitation, led by PMANE, has put a stop to the project work, delaying the commissioning of the first unit slated last month.

To resolve the issue, the central and state governments have formed two panels to allay the fears of the people.

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