On September 15 2012, a cry was made from Tamil Nadu during an attention-grabbing protest in opposition to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant project (KNPP). An estimated 8,000 people crowded the Idinthakarai coast, a few hundred meters from the site, and emerged themselves in the sea to form a “human wave”.
Only a few weeks prior, another water-based protest was held in Madhya Prasesh in order to push the government to lower water levels in local dams that had been over-flooding. More than fifty farmers spent seventeen days in neck deep waters as a sign of their frustration. The protestors suffered from severe blisters, rashes, and fish bites on their feet.
These are only two of the many protests that the Indian people have held; as stirring tension is seemingly the only way that they can get the Indian government to listen to their fight against human rights violations.
The Kudankulam Atomic Power Project is a nuclear power station under construction in Koodankulam in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Opposition has grown fervent, over the past month, due to the fearful Tamil Nadu people that it could potentially cause a Fukushima-like disaster. According to S. P. Udayakumar, more than one million people live within the thirty kilometer radius of the KKNPP which exceeds the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board stipulations and it would be impossible to evacuate this many people quickly and efficiently in case of a nuclear disaster at Koodankulam.
An agreement on the project was made back in 1988 between former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, for the construction of two reactors. The development remained inactive for a decade due to the political and economic upheaval in Russia after 1991. The United States also objected to it on the grounds that the agreement did not meet the 1992 terms of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
During the nonviolent protest on September 15, police were quick to use force—resulting in hundreds of arrests and three deaths. They used tear gas and lathi-charge, a military tactic in which a long heavy wooden stick is used as a weapon to disperse a crowd.
The protest that day expanded from Tamil Nadu to neighboring towns, specifically along the coast. Fishermen closed down the port in Tuticorin, blocking the train tracks and highway. Police opened fire in Tuitron when a police station was set ablaze and the protestors were marching towards the station. G. Antony John, 48-year-old fisherman, was murdered in the shootout as well as a six year-old girl who was reportedly crushed and killed by a crowd retreating from the police attack.
Police did not only use force against demonstrators but also made it difficult for the media to reach the scene to prevent the protest from being broadcasted. The Asian Human Rights Committee told Al Jazeera, “the state’s brute use of force, even against the media, is a matter of extreme concern."
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board came out with a statement on September 17 saying the inspection of the reactor pressure vessel of Unit-1 was completed and no defects therein were found. Srinivasan, the former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India, said that one should never compare the Fukushima plant with Kudankulam and added, "the Fukushima plant was built on a beachfront, but the Kudankulam was constructed on a solid terrain. Also, we are not in a tsunami prone area. The plants in Kudankulam have a double containment system, which can withstand high pressure. If we don’t operate the plant immediately, it will affect the economic stability of our country"
It is typical of, not only the India government, but also many others to use fear as a weapon to control their citizens. As seen with this situation, the people of Tamil Nadu are completely opposed to the nuclear power plant project yet they have no say in what happens in their backyard because once they show how they feel, they are attacked by the police. Despite the endurance of the peaceful Tamil Nadu protestors, the nuclear plant will continue construction in the next few weeks. Protestors showed up in smaller numbers after the September 15 demonstrations, for fear of their lives.