A government bus with its windscreen smashed by anti-nuke protesters in Chennai on Tuesday. (PTI)
Chennai, Sept. 11: S.P. Udayakumar, the man spearheading the anti-nuclear protests in Kudankulam, said he would surrender tonight to prevent a fresh flare-up, a day after the year-long campaign against the project claimed its first victim.
Till late in the night, however, Udayakumar had not surrendered.
A tense calm held in Kudankulam and nearby villages even as main Opposition party DMK, ally Congress and the Left maintained silence on yesterday’s police firing, showing the blood spill had not yet dented the larger consensus on the project in power-deficient Tamil Nadu.
Udayakumar, the convener of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy against whom the police had filed a case of instigating violence and attempt to storm the plant, told reporters today he and three other leaders would court arrest at Kudankulam police station.
“I don’t want our protests, which have been going on peacefully for over a year, to be marred by violence, though it was the police that unleashed it on us. We also appeal to the police not to harass villagers after our arrest,” he said in Idinthakarai. “This does not mean we have accepted defeat or have relinquished our fight.”
An hour after Udayakumar’s announcement, a group of fishermen spirited him away in a boat, asserting they would not allow him to surrender.
“We were informed they wanted to surrender at Kudankulam police station at 9pm. Beyond that we have not heard from them,” Tirunelveli SP Vijendra Bidari said.
The agitation had turned violent yesterday after the police used tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrators who had gathered on the beach near the plant. The immediate provocation was the Nuclear Power Corporation’s move to load fuel into one of the two 1,000MW Russian-built reactors, hoping to fire it up for power generation later this month.
A fisherman died in police firing in neighbouring Tuticorin district in what appeared to be a chain reaction to the baton charge.
Chief minister Jayalalithaa, who heads the ruling AIADMK, had yesterday given the police the green signal to go after the leaders of the movement. The Congress has also called for Udayakumar’s arrest.
Sources said Udayakumar appears to have run out of options after the police foiled his tactic of getting the protesters to storm the nuclear plant. While he might have got the support of the fishing community and some smaller parties, the silence of the DMK and the Congress, they said, had exposed the lack of public support for his movement.
A team of officials from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has reached Kudankulam to supervise the fuel loading process.
The row reached the Supreme Court today. A petition, filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan, said the AERB approved the fuel loading procedures without ensuring that critical safety features recommended by the government’s own task force were in place.