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India: Brutal police repression on peaceful protestors at Koodankulam: Government must refrain from intimidation

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(Bangkok, 13 September 2012): The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) has strongly condemned the fierce police repression on the peaceful protest by the people of Idinthikarai and other villages surrounding the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant in Tamil Nadu, India on 10 September 2012. The regional human rights organization representing 49 non-governmental organizations across Asia has urged Indian government to refrain from intimidating peaceful protesters of Koodankulam.

The baton charge, use of tear gas and dispersal of crowd by police firing has claimed the life of a fisherman Mr. Anthonysamy (40) and three other minor children were alleged to be missing. Over 200 tsunami houses and boats were allegedly to be destroyed by brutal police action, water supply was stopped and all roads to the Idinthakarai village, the epic center of the struggle have also been cordoned off disallowing any relief or food materials to be transported to the village.

The people of the region have been agitating for more than two decades demanding the closure of the Nuclear Plant. With the government turning a deaf ear to their protests and instead accelerating plans to commence fuel loading of the reactor so as to commission the plant, the people announced that they would lay siege to the plant to prevent it. On September 9, 2012, between 8000 to 10,000 people marched to the plant. The plant is located 4 km away from the village. People walked down the coastal path avoiding the road route until stopped by the police some 800 meter away from the plant. The people then sat down on the sea shore, declaring that they would not leave till their demands are met. The next morning, on September 10, at 11.30 am, the police began their attack on the people. They lobbed tear gas shells and brutally baton charged the peaceful protesters.

Dozens of men and women had to be hospitalised and till now about 50 persons have been arrested. The police also damaged the boats parked on the beach, destroyed their expensive outboard engines; lights and speakers were broken; sand was thrown in the food that was prepared for lunch by the protestors. The police entered Idinthikarai village and the nearby tsunami colony, breaking doors, damaging houses, looting small jewellery, breaking water cans, damaging the water supply system to the village, indiscriminately beating up and arresting people. In addition, police also attacked the media persons, especially the cameramen. Their cameras were broken and videotapes removed from the cameras.

The news of the police brutality spread across Tamil Nadu, fishing villages went on strike all along the coast. Police baton charged at numerous places and even opened fire, which claimed the life of a fisherman, Mr. Anthony Samy (40), of Manappad village, Thoothukudi district.

FORUM-ASIA has reminded the government of India the remarks made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2012 referring to the General Comment No. 31 (2004) of the Human Rights Committee that “where restrictions are made, States must demonstrate their necessity and only take such measures as are proportionate to the pursuance of legitimate aims in order to ensure continuous and effective protection of Covenant rights”. Noting that India is a sitting member of the UN Human Rights Council and soon going to make its commitments under the 2nd cycle of Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the regional human rights organization has urged the government of India to respect and protect everyone’s right to peaceful assembly and association in any situation.

FORUM-ASIA has expressed its strongest solidarity with the people of Koodankulam as they are struggling for their right to health and livelihoods including the lives of their future generations for more than two decades. The group has called upon the Indian Central and the State government to respect the right to dissent and find peaceful solution through broad-based consultation and avoiding all forms of intimidation and harassment.

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