Kudankulam row: MDMK chief Vaiko arrested
Idinthakarai: The Tamil Nadu Police Friday arrested MDMK chief Vaiko who was heading to the Idinthakarai village - the epicentre of the anti-Kudankulam protests - to address villagers there. Around 350 people were arrested with Vaiko.
Around 5000 people had gathered at village today. Vaiko too had joined the protesters.
There are also reports that the police may arrest S P Udhayakumar, the activist who is spearheading the protests. The villagers who have gathered there want to court arrest along with Mr Udhayakumar.
They have even put up barricades to prevent entry by police.
The police had yesterday removed the check post blocking the entry into the village. They had allowed the entry of vehicles into the area which has been seeing heated protests over the nuclear plant.
Prohibitory orders, however, remain in force in areas around Kudankulam.
Mr Udhayakumar is facing charges of sedition and waging war against the country. He is on an indefinite hunger strike in Idinthakarai ever since Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa gave the go-ahead to begin work at the controversial plant earlier this week.
Villagers who have been protesting along with him for the last seven months say that they too would court arrest with him. But the police allege that the activist is using the locals as a human shield to evade arrest.
The anti-nuclear campaigner, meanwhile, said they are all prepared to be arrested. "If police want to arrest us, let them arrest all of us here. All of us here are overstepping the law, so let them arrest all of us. It is not appropriate to arrest one or two of us. We are all prepared to be arrested."
"I have not stolen any public money. I have not done anything wrong to anybody... I am not a politician... why should I be arrested?" he added. The villagers too have said that they will not give up their non-violent campaign.
The check posts were removed after allegations that the police had stopped essential supplies like milk and drinking water from reaching the village. The Tamil Nadu police chief, however, denied these allegations.
The upcoming Kudankulam nuclear plant is within a radius of a kilometre from the village where regular work has resumed after the state government order. Nearly 300 scientists keep moving into the plant on regular shifts. According to V Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, the work will be completed within two months.
Meanwhile, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) came up for hearing in the Madras High Court against the prohibitory orders clamped in the area. The court will deliver its verdict on Monday.
The petition, filed by P Pugalenthi, an advocate and Director of Prisoners Rights Forum, contended that depriving the people of their fundamental right of free movement in the name of maintaining public peace and tranquillity was a violation of constitutional norms.
The petitioner sought an order to declare as null and void the prohibitory orders in force till April 2.
Dr Udhayakumar points to the recent Fukushima tragedy in Japan to bolster his argument that the Kudankulam plant is not safe for those who live in close proximity. He has struck a chord with the villagers and that has catapulted him to be the face of the anti-nuclear campaign in the area.
In September, the state Cabinet had passed a resolution demanding that the Prime Minister order a halt of operations at Kudankulam till those living in the area were convinced that they are not at risk
Dr Manmohan Singh then deputed experts and ministers to assess the plant and answer the questions of villagers. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had also commissioned her own panel of experts to study the plant. Her clearance for the project came right after an important by-election in the Tirunelveli district, where the plant is located. In an attempt to pacify the area, she announced a Rs. 500 crore package to improve roads and infrastructure in the area.
The nuclear power project, worth Rs. 13,000 crores and being set up with assistance from Russia, will upon completion have six reactors, making this will India's largest power-generating complex. A pair of two 1,000-megawatt reactors will kickstart production.
The protesters, mostly fishermen from three districts, are worried that the seaside plant may damage the ecosystem with nuclear waste and ruin their livelihoods.
The Prime Minister's recent remarks that protests against Kudankulam were possibly receiving foreign funding provoked much anger among NGOs.