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NEW DELHI, Aug 11: Leading Indian nuclear dissidents said on Saturday they would observe Independence Day next week as a ‘black day’, joining similar usual protests by separatist groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir and northeastern states.

The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, which also opposes nuclear arms, questioned a recent Indian decision to waive the liability in the event of an accident for Russian manufacturers of a controversial power plant.

The unit is due to begin operations shortly in the southern coastal town of Kudankulam. Sri Lanka has also opposed the project regarded by its critics as a potential Fukushima-like calamity in waiting. The plant is located some 250 kms from Lanka’s northern town of Mannar.

The PMANE said in a statement that its protest was rooted in its commitment to the democratic precepts and values of India, and that it had faith in and respect for the Indian legal system. It decided to wait for the judgment of the Madras High Court to decide its future course of action.

“In the meantime, the PMANE condemns the undemocratic, authoritarian and unconstitutional decision of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to grant clearance for the fuel loading of Unit-1 of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

The PMANE supports all legal efforts that bring contempt of court charges against the AERB and other related bodies.”

Since the Indian nuclear establishment’s decision “insults the Madras High Court, violates the Indian Constitution and pawns Indian independence with the Russian government and corporations by granting liability waiver to them and promoting their interests at the cost of Indian citizens, the PMANE will commemorate Aug 15 as a black day. We will hoist black flags on our homes and public places,” the statement said.

Fishermen from several coastal villages in Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi districts planned to boycott their work until the Madras High Court judgment is announced on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). The shopkeepers in and around these villages would also close their shops in support of the struggle.

“The first anniversary of the current phase of our struggle will be commemorated on Aug 16 at Idinthakarai. Several political and social leaders along with writers, artists and activists will be participating in the day-long event.”