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Anti-nuclear protestors end hunger strike

Former judge calls for mediation in Tamil Nadu reactor standoff

Anti-nuke protestors hold night vigil and candle march on May 14 Anti-nuke protestors hold night vigil and candle march on May 14
  • ucanews.com reporter, Idinthakarai
  • India
  • May 15, 2012
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Protestors against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu called off their 14-day-old hunger strike Monday, on the advice of a former chief justice.

Activists said they would continue with relay fasts at Idinthakarai, a Catholic fisherfolk-dominated coastal village, to protest the 2,000-megawatt nuclear plant in the southern Indian state.

The Koodankulam nuclear plant, built with Russian technology, was scheduled to start operations in December, but they were suspended indefinitely after widespread protests over safety concerns.

“Yesterday, 64 women and three men ended their indefinite hunger strike after Justice A.P. Shah [former chief justice of the Madras high court] appealed to us to make space for mediation,” activist Victoria Pushparayan said.

Protestors are demanding the total shutdown of the project, although some speculate that they may go for a compromise if a safety drill is conducted before the plant  goes online and if the government makes public the liability agreement if anything happens in the future.

Justice Shah assured protestors that he would mediate for an early settlement of their demands, said Pushparayan, a former priest and a leader of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE).

He said Shah would head a panel of mediators and initiate talks with the government for a settlement on the issue. Meanwhile, last week the federal government approved the first of two plants to go online in mid-June.

Both the federal and state governments have been on a collision course with the anti-nuclear protestors. More than 250 cases with charges of sedition and attempted murder have been registered against the PMANE leader, and the state government has deployed 3,000 armed police in Koodankulam.

On May 8, the Tamil Nadu government declared the protest illegal citing a section in the Indian penal code that bars assembly of more than four people.

Still, around 3,000 villagers assembled Monday at Lourde Matha Church grounds, Idinthakarai, the epicentre of anti-nuclear protests and organized a night vigil and candle march.

Pushparayan said that PMANE would continue its legal battle against the power project in both the high court and the Supreme Court.

“We have no intention of stopping our struggle. We will continue our legal battle to meet our demands in a peaceful manner,” he said.

The hunger strike began on May 1 with 35 people. The number swelled to 337 two days later, but most had to be hospitalized, and only 67 were left on May 14.

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