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India harassing those protesting Kudankulam n-plant: HRW

New York

24-September-2014

International NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) Wednesday said authorities in India should "stop using sedition and other laws" against activists protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu.

"Authorities in India should stop using sedition and other laws against activists and protesters who have peacefully opposed a nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu," said a statement from the New York-based NGO.

The NGO said in the latest incident, immigration officials Sep 16 prevented environmental activist S.P. Udayakumar from travelling out of India because of various cases filed against him for leading protests at the Kudankulam plant.

Udayakumar, convener of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), was on his way to Nepal Sep 16 to participate in a UN consultation on human rights, but was detained and interrogated at the New Delhi airport for over five hours.

"At 7 p.m., immigration officials released Udayakumar but told him that he should not try to leave the country. They said that Tamil Nadu authorities had put his name on a lookout notice, thereby restricting his travel," the statement said.

"The Indian parliament should repeal the colonial-era sedition law, which has been repeatedly misused to harass activists and peaceful protesters," HRW said.

The statement said since October 2011, police in Tamil Nadu have filed thousands of complaints against residents who have been peacefully protesting against the Kudankulam plant, accusing them of sedition and other serious crimes.

"While formal charges have rarely been brought, the complaints leave those targeted at risk of perpetual harassment by the authorities," it said.

"Indian authorities are misusing the sedition law to intimidate local residents and others who oppose the Kudankulam nuclear plant," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW.

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the sedition law should only be applied when there is clear incitement to violence. So instead of bringing weak cases to court, the authorities are just filing complaints as harassment," she said.

The statement said villagers from fishing and other communities concerned about adverse effects on their health and livelihood have protested against the plant.

"Instead of allaying their concerns, authorities have accused over 50,000 people of sedition, waging or abetting war against the state, disrupting harmony, insulting national honour, criminal trespass, and unlawful assembly," it said.

The statement said over 300 first information reports (FIRs) were filed, but after two years, Tamil Nadu Police have brought charges in only two cases. Police were yet to file charges in any of the sedition cases. - IANS